COMMENTS: Nicotine Genes Isolated

Smoking cigarettes is harmful to one's health. That truth was illuminated by the Story of the Day. Research published in Nature has isolated a series of genes that are responsible for potentially deadly proteins in the lungs. Those proteins do two things: they are more powerful receptors for nicotine, making it harder for an addicted smoker to quit; and they foster the growth of tumors, making that smoker even more cancer-prone. No one knows yet what proportion of smokers possesses these dangerous genes. Both CBS and NBC led with the research. ABC, the network whose longtime anchor Peter Jennings died of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes, did not even mention the research. It led with airline safety instead.

CBS' Emily Senay calculated that smokers with the nicotine-receptor genes have a 25% chance of contracting lung cancer, compared with a 16% chance for all other smokers. "Many people think if they do not have the gene they can smoke riskfree," Senay suggested. "Of course that is not true." The tar in cigarettes is a carcinogen, she pointed out--without even mentioning the danger cigarettes pose to one's heart. NBC's Robert Bazell came up with a pair of possible benefits from the genetic research: it may help select those who would be most helped by early CT scan screening for lesions; and it may help understand the genetic mechanism for absorbing nicotine in the lungs--and therefore the development of nicotine blocking medicines to assist would-be quitters.

Many of those CT scans are performed by machines manufactured by Bazell's corporate boss, General Electric, but unlike last time (text link) that lung cancer screening came up, Bazell did not go into those details on this occasion.


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