Genetic susceptibility to tobacco-related cancer

Oncogene. 2004 Aug 23;23(38):6500-23. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1207811.


Although cigarette smoking is the dominant risk factor for several epithelial cancers, only a small fraction of individuals with tobacco exposure develop cancer. The underlying hypothesis is that genetic factors may render certain smokers more susceptible to cancer than others. Genetic alterations in critical regulatory pathways may predispose cells to carcinogenesis. These pathways include regulation of xenobiotic metabolism; control of genomic stability, including DNA repair mechanisms, cell-cycle checkpoints, apoptosis and telomere length; and control of microenvironmental factors, such as matrix metalloproteinases, inflammation and growth factors. In addition, epigenetic events, such as promoter hypermethylation and loss of imprinting, are also involved in carcinogenesis. In this review, we will summarize recent advances in genetic susceptibility to tobacco-related cancer. Emphasizing on risk assessment, we will describe how genetic variations in the above-mentioned genetic pathways modify the tobacco-related cancer risk. In addition, we will discuss how genetic variations may assist in predicting clinical outcome, such as the natural history of cancer and treatment response. The measurements of genetic susceptibility by both genotypic and phenotypic assays are covered in the text. Finally, we present a number of current concerns that need to be addressed as the exciting field of molecular cancer epidemiology advances rapidly.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco / toxicity*


  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System