Bojensen et al paper published in Thorax
22 January 2017
Nic Timpson, Caroline Relton and George Davey Smith are all co-authors on an AHRR paper which has been published in Thorax. The publication made the front page news in Denmark!
As a result of problems in measurement, self-reported smoking underestimates the relationship between this potent risk factor and disease risk. However, smoking has effects on the way that genes are controlled and these changes can actually be used to assess smoking behaviour in people without having to ask them to remember and honestly report their own smoking. In this work with our collaborators in Copenhangen at the University Hospital in Herlev, we tested the hypothesis that one particular type of gene control mark is associated with risk of smoking related morbidity and mortality. To do this, we worked with the Copenhagen City Heart Study which gives a good representation of the Danish general population. In this study, participants were followed for up to 22 years and data collected on respiratory disease, lung cancer and all-cause mortality. Gene control marks at a gene called AHRR were found to be associated with former and current smoking status, daily and cumulative smoking, time since giving up smoking and also other genes which are related directly with smoking behaviour itself. Using this as a marker of smoking behaviour this work was then able to confirm and re-estimate the risk of disease that is associated with smoking, but not relying on inaccurate self-report data. Among smokers at high risk of lung cancer, the gene control mark at AHRR was found to be useful and able to help identify subgroups of people with the potential most benefit from further clinical examination (for example detailed imaging to reveal possible cancer).