But not all smokers have lung cancer and not all people who eat cheeseburgers get bowel cancer, and there must be ‘other factors’ at play.
“This finding transcribes the explanation from the textbook that cancer occurs due to human behavior combined with bad luck, including someone’s genetic composition,” said Dr. Edwin Wang, a scientist from the University of Calgary.
“We believe a baby is born with a genomic germ pattern and will not change, and that pattern is associated with a greater or lesser risk of cancer,” he said in a paper published in the journal Science Advances.
Germline represents the cells that determine our children and the DNA that is passed from parents to children.
For the first time, scientists have described these highly specialized biological patterns applicable to cancer risk.
Wang found that fingerprints can be classified into subgroups with different survival rates.
One in seven germs offers protection against the development of cancer, and the other six germs pose a higher risk of cancer.
“Interestingly, one of these germlines protects against cancer development and has frequently appeared in our genome analysis,” noted Wang, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at CSM.
“We know that there are individuals who can smoke and have an unhealthy lifestyle, but they never get cancer, and this discovery may explain these phenomena.”
For this study, Wang conducted a mass systematic analysis of more than 26,000 germ genomes, about 10,000 people who had cancer and were left without.
Samples include 22 different cancers, including lung, pancreas, bladder, breast, brain, stomach, thyroid and bone, and a dozen more.
The control group of cancer-free people included genomically sequenced groups from Sweden, England, and Canada.
Huge amounts of data are shredded using machine learning.
Wang said that between five and 10 percent of cancers are caused by certain gene mutations.
Imagine breast cancer and the inherited gene BRCA1 and BRCA2, a mutation in a gene that actress Angelina Jolie was widely known for.
“We found that one DNA fingerprint is enriched tens to hundreds of times in the genomes of germlines in cancer patients, suggesting that it is a universal inherited trait that encodes cancer risk,” the scientist noted.
The study also found that another DNA fingerprint was highly enriched in cancer patients who were also tobacco smokers, indicating that smokers who carry such a DNA fingerprint have a higher risk of cancer.
“I hope additional studies will be conducted to expand this work, so that it can eventually be put into practice by allowing clinicians to inform patients about cancer risk and how to take precautions to ensure a healthy life,” Wang said.