Cytochrome P450 2A6 (CYP2A6) plays an important role in the oxidation of nicotine and in the activation of tobacco-related carcinogens, such as N-nitrosodimethylamine, N-nitrosodiethylamine and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone. It has been suggested that individuals with defective CYP2A6 alleles are at a lower risk of becoming smokers and of developing lung and other tobacco-related cancers. We examined the relationship between the CYP2A6 gene deletion and susceptibility to lung and esophageal cancer in a Chinese population via a hospital-based case-control study. The CYP2A6 gene deletion was determined by a PCR-based approach in 326 healthy controls, 149 patients with esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma and 151 patients with lung cancer. The allele frequency of the CYP2A6*4 deletion was 8.6% among controls compared with 8.4% among cases with esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma (p = 0.29) or 13.2% among cases with lung cancer (p < 0.01). Individuals who harbored at least one CYP2A6*4 deletion allele were at a 2-fold increased risk of developing lung cancer (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2-3.2) compared with those without a defective CYP2A6 allele. This effect was mainly limited to squamous-cell carcinoma and to non-smokers, although a joint effect of CYP2A6 deletion and tobacco smoking on lung cancer risk was observed among heavy smokers. The overall risk of esophageal cancer did not appear to be associated with this CYP2A6 genetic polymorphism (odds ratio [OR] = 1.2, 95% CI = 0.7-2.1). However, stratified analysis suggested an excess risk with borderline significance (OR = 2.1; 95% CI = 1.0-4.5) related to the CYP2A6*4 allele among non-smokers. The distribution of CYP2A6 genotype frequency was not significantly different (p = 0.40) between smokers (n = 174) and non-smokers (n = 152) in this study population. Our results demonstrate that the CYP2A6 gene deletion is associated with an increased risk of lung and esophageal cancer but not with a reduced tendency to smoke.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.