The dramatic shift in the pathological presentation of lung cancer [the proportional decrease in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and increase in adenocarcinoma (AC)] observed in the United States after the 1950s may have taken place as the result of the reduction in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and the increase in N-nitrosamines in inhaled smoke from filtered low-yield cigarettes. The predominant mutation patterns of these tumors also suggest differences in their etiology. We tested the hypothesis that genetic susceptibility to PAHs, as determined by polymorphisms in CYP1A1 and GSTM1, predominantly causes lung SCCs, and susceptibility to nitrosamines, as determined by polymorphisms in CYP2E1, predominantly causes lung ACs. CYP1A1 and GSTM1 play a major role in the metabolic activation and detoxification of PAHs, respectively, and CYP2E1 plays a major role in the metabolic activation of nitrosamines. We conducted a population-based case-control study among 341 incident lung cancer cases and 456 controls of Caucasian, Japanese, or Hawaiian origin. In-person interviews collected detailed information on lifestyle risk factors, and DNA extracted from peripheral leukocytes was used in PCR-based genotyping assays. Logistic regression analyses were used to compute odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each cell type, adjusting for smoking and dietary variables. The presence of at least one copy of the CYP1A1 MspI variant allele was found to be associated with a 2.4-fold (95% CI, 1.2–4.7) increase in the risk of SCC when this gene was considered singly and a 3.1-fold (95% CI, 1.2–7.9) increase in the risk of SCC when combined with a GSTM1 deletion. No significant association was found between MspI and all lung cancers or other cell types or with the CYP1A1 exon 7 polymorphism. In contrast, the CYP2E1 RsaI and DraI polymorphisms were not clearly related to SCC risk, but these homozygous variant genotypes were associated with a 10-fold (95% CI, 0.0–0.5) decrease in the risk of overall lung cancer (RsaI variant) and AC (DraI variant) compared to the homozygous wild-type genotypes. Inverse associations with these two closely linked CYP2E1 polymorphisms were also suggested for small cell carcinoma. In agreement with past experimental and epidemiological data, the associations found in this study between CYP1A1 and lung SCC and between CYP2E1 and lung AC suggest a certain specificity of tobacco smoke PAHs for lung SCC and tobacco-specific nitrosamines for lung ACs.


Supported in part by Grant RO1-CA-55874 and Contract NO1-CN-05223 from the United States National Cancer Institute and by Grant EDT-78 from the American Cancer Society.

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