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Why Some Drinkers and Smokers Die Young


Thursday, March 5th, 2009 Why Some Drinkers and Smokers Die Young

Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent of the Telegraph (18 01 09) Discusses why some drinkers and smokers die young, while others escape. It would appear that it is all to do with the genes, and two recently identified genes may increase the chances of an unhealthy lifestyle giving us cancer, scientists have said.

More specifically the genes put carrriers at greater risk of developing five different types of cancer: skin, lung, bladder, prostate and cervical cancer.

Notably, lung cancer has a huge impact on the population as it kills 35,000 British people per annum.

What is significant is that the findings may allow scientists to identify those, most at risk as a result of inherited genetics and lifestyle issues.

The scientists believe that up to 25% of the population have the highest risk factors, another 25% have the lowest risk on the basis that they do not carry the specific genes.

More research is required in determining how much these two genes can increase the overall lifetime chance of developing a form of the disease.

Of equal importance, it has been suggested that on average humans have a one in three chance of developing some form of cancer over their lifetime.

Scientists have long known that lifestyle and environment can affect a person’s risk of developing many types of cancer.

Smoking has previously been linked to lung and bladder cancer, drinking to different types of cancer including liver cancer, and eating a diet high in red meat to an increased risk of bowel cancer.

But researchers have never been clear on the exact nature of how these exposures increase risk, and why some people appear more prone to their effects than others.

A Professor of genetic epidemiology at the University of Leeds, Tim Bishop (also one of the co-authors of the paper) aid that cancer was often caused by a “complex” interplay between genetic and environmental factors, and that these newly identified genes could go some way to explaining their relationship.

The scientists were able to isolate the genes as they studied in-excess of 33,000 cancer survivors and another 45,000 who had never suffered disease.

A comparison was made in relation to their carriers lifestyle and indeed their history of the disease.

It was determined that whilst they increased the chance of suffering from five types of cancer the genes were not linked to an increased risk of another nine cancers for which the researchers could test, including breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease in women, according to the findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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