A study performed by a team at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research has offered a little bit of insight into how tobacco consumption from smoking triggers tumor development. According to the team, smoking appears to prevent the formation of proteins that are responsible for regulating the amount of “runaway” cells that develop. Smoking gives rise to “stop-gain” mutations in cellular DNA, resulting in the body to stop making the protective proteins. Without the presence of these “tumor suppressor” proteins, tumors are more likely to occur as the abnormal cells can keep growing without being “checked”, or eliminated. The research team used the genetic legacy of a smoker’s DNA and compared it to DNA collected from 12,000 tumor samples totaling 18 different types of cancer. The examination found that the occurrence of smoking seemed strongly connected to stop-gain mutations that left people more vulnerable to cancer. They also found that the longer and more intensely a person smoked, the more stop-gain mutations were found in their tumors.
The study is interesting because it highlights the effect of smoking on critical proteins and the impact of deactivating these proteins on long term health. It could be inferred from this research that other lifestyle habits, like alcohol consumption, could impact the proteins with a boost in stop-gain mutations. This research seems important because being able to explain some of the molecular mechanisms of what leads to cancer by smoking can assist in better understanding how lifestyle can affect the risk of cancer.