We have known tobacco to be a cause of many cancers for decades now. It is associated with it least 14 types of cancers (see Figure 1). Less understood is how tobacco causes cancer. The short answer—it causes mutations. Tobacco smoke is a mixture of many chemicals, including at least 60 carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
A trans-national team of researchers has begun unearthing the distinct types of mutations caused by tobacco smoke to better understand the biological pathways leading to tobacco-induced cancer. They found that tobacco causes specific types of DNA damage in organs directly exposed to smoke (like the lungs) and that smoking tobacco generally leads to higher rates of mutation in all tissues. Understanding how the chemicals in tobacco smoke cause mutations can help scientists identify new and emerging mutagens and design better treatment strategies.
Editors: Molly Kozminsky, Jimmy Brancho, Kevin Boehnke
Harry Potter has his mother’s eyes. From his father, James, he inherits his black hair, his ability to play Quidditch, and a certain predisposition to mischief. We are all unique combinations of our parents, receiving half our DNA from each. In the genetic lottery, our parents’ genes are scrambled and spliced to create a new individual who carries on the family’s long tradition of snoring into one’s sheets. But besides a rickety knee, shortness of stature, and preferred pizza toppings, what else can we blame on our parents?
At first glance, aging and cancer are polar opposites. Many people will think of aging as growing old and dying. Cancer, on the other hand, is tumors and abnormal, uncontrolled cell growth.
But aging and cancer have more in common than we might think. Both cancerous and aged cells show genome instability– an increased tendency of mutations to occur in your genome. There are multiple factors that lead to genome instability, but we will focus on how gene mutation arise, which is a permanent error in genes.