New gene mutation may contribute to higher rates of lung cancer among non-smokers: Study

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New Delhi (NVI): According to a new study by Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, a pattern of newly identified genetic changes may contribute to a higher rate of lung cancer among non-smokers in East-Asia, particualry in younger women.

The recently published study in journal Cell, tumor samples in 103 lung cancer patients were analyzed in Taiwan, majority of whom were non-smokers.

According to the analysis, a pattern of newly identified genetic changes may contribute to the higher rates of lung cancer.

According to Chen Yu-ju, director of the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Chemistry, researchers have already observed that around 60 percent of lung cancer cases in East Asia are related to mutations of the EGFR gene, compared to only 20 percent in Western countries, where the disease is most common among smokers.

He further added that, “In Taiwan, non-smokers account for over 50 percent of lung cancer patients, which rises to 93 percent among women.”

It is a feature shared by many other East Asian countries, but the reason remains unclear. The study was the first in East Asia to unravel the mystery.

The study’s new finding, however, involves mutations to a separate set of genes — known as APOBEC — which were found in many of the study’s female patients.

In Taiwan, up to 74 percent of female never-smokers (younger than 60 years old) showed higher mutation signatures of APOBEC — a family of proteins related to RNA editing.

Furthermore, the study’s authors believe these findings could have implications both for the detection and treatment of lung cancer.

APOBEC testing could help identify those at risk of the disease and lead to its detection at earlier stages, Chen said.

Through the study, the team hopes to raise public awareness of the potential carcinogenesis of food additives, such as nitrosamine, which is used in fermented tofu and preserved radish, nitrated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (nitro-PAHs) found in vehicle exhaust, cooking and secondhand smoke, as well as hereditary factors.