We may finally know why so many lifelong smokers never get lung cancer

Scientists may have discovered why lifelong smokers never get lung cancer. This phrase probably sounds silly, especially since cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. Although tobacco products are the cause of 90% of deaths, lifelong smokers tend to avoid getting lung cancer. Now science may have finally figured out why.

Some smokers never get lung cancer – this study may have figured out why

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According to new findings published in Natural genetics, DNA repair genes may prevent some smokers from developing lung cancer. Researchers have found an inherent benefit in many smokers who have never developed lung cancer. They found that the cells lining the lungs were less likely to mutate over time.

Basically, because the DNA repair genes in some people who smoked were so active, they protected the person against the formation of cancerous cells. It’s an intriguing discovery that could finally explain why some smokers never get lung cancer.

The researchers examined the genetic profiles of the bronchial basal cells of 33 participants. All participants were between the ages of 11 and 86. 14 participants had never smoked, while the other 19 had varying histories of light, moderate and heavy smokers.

They then sequenced surface cells collected from participants’ lungs to measure mutations in their genomes.

Multiply mutations

MRI of lung cancerImage source: utah51/Adobe

The results showed that these lung cells survive for years. And that mutations can accumulate as the person ages and continues to smoke. They are also the lung cells most likely to become cancerous, a pulmonologist from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine explained in a statement.

But what’s most interesting is that after about 23 years of smoking a pack a day, scientists found that the risk and rate of mutation in these cells plateaued dramatically. As such, some lifelong smokers never get lung cancer due to how drastically the mutation rates change.

This is because their DNA is able to repair the body before cell mutations turn into tumors. According to scientists, these DNA repair genes can be inherited or acquired. And what makes a person’s body better able to repair DNA remains a mystery.

However, based on the results of this study, it may play a significant role in why 80-90% of lifelong smokers never develop lung cancer.

Yet even knowing this, the risk associated with smoking is still shockingly high. And geneticists plan to develop new ways to measure a person’s ability to repair DNA. This could help us better understand the role DNA repair plays in why lifelong smokers never get lung cancer. What’s more, it might even help us assess a person’s lung cancer risk more effectively.

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