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Researchers Find a Genetic Link to Nicotine Addiction - and Lung Cancer

posted 11:30 PM EST, Thu April 03, 2008
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Researchers Find a Genetic Link to Nicotine Addiction - and Lung Cancer © Photo: Stephen Dowling

People with a certain gene expression on chromosome 15 get more pleasure from smoking, are more likely to get addicted, and are far more likely to get lung cancer and heart disease.

A genetic variation on chromosome 15 may explain why some people get more easily addicted to cigarettes, have a harder time quitting, and sadly, are more predisposed to lung cancer.

Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand have found that this genetic variation is seen far more commonly in people who also smoke heavily. Dr Greg Jones, the study leader, explains that people with this genetic aberration have nicotinic receptors in the heart and brain that seem more activated by the nicotine in cigarettes – They get a greater reaction from smoking, and are more likely to smoke heavily.

The researchers evaluated the genetic makeup's of 3700 people with lung cancer or heart disease, in 7 countries, and also 30 000 control subjects without either disorder.

People with altered chromosome 15's are 18% more likely to get lung cancer and 10% more likely to have heart disease.

Dr Jones cautions that smoking can be deadly for people regardless of their genetics.

The study data was published in this month's edition of the journal, Nature.

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