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Last Updated: Friday, 2 June 2006, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Lung cancer 'genetic factor link'
Lung X-ray
90% of lung cancer cases are linked to smoking
Hereditary factors can play a role in the development of lung cancer, research suggests.

The Institute of Cancer Research report found 64 gene mutations which could contribute to lung cancer in a study of more than 4,000 people.

But the researchers said they only contributed to the disease - the most common form of cancer - in a minor way.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor, linked to nine in 10 lung cancers, the Genome Research journal study added.

These data shows that while there is no specific gene a series of mutations could increase some people's risk
Professor Peter Rigby, of the Institute of Cancer Research

Lead researcher Professor Richard Houlston said: "The exact nature of lung cancer susceptibility is extremely complex, it is important to remember that tobacco smoke is far and away the biggest risk factor for lung cancer.

"While our research indicates that certain individuals could be at a higher risk of developing the disease it has been proven that the majority of cases of lung cancer are caused by tobacco smoke."

The study, which also received funding from Cancer Research UK, looked at 2,707 healthy individuals and 1,529 lung cancer patients.

In each sample scientists assessed a total of 1,476 DNA variants in 871 genes thought to have links with cancer.

From this group, they identified 64 mutations which were found to be associated with lung cancer.

However, individually each only contributed to the development of cancer in a minor way.


Professor Peter Rigby, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said: "It has been suggested that there is a hereditary link in some cases and these data shows that while there is no specific gene a series of mutations could increase some people's risk.

"However it is imperative to be aware that these mutations are "low penetrance" meaning they will only appear in certain cases, not all.

"Further research is needed to ascertain the exact effect of these mutations and how they can affect people's risk."

A total of 37,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK each year, and 33,000 die from the disease.

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