Scientists Map Genomes of Skin, Lung Cancer
Research ties disease to specific mutations
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2009 3:02 PM CST
In this Feb. 9, 2009 file photo, Camel cigarettes, an R.J. Reynolds brand, are seen on display at JJ&F Market in in Palo Alto, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
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(Newser) – Scientists have mapped the genomes of skin and lung cancer, allowing them to know which specific mutations cause the disease. The development, hailed as a major breakthrough, could lead to earlier detection and better drug treatments. Melanoma and lung cancer are triggered by sets of tens of thousands of errors, mostly caused by overexposure to the sun and cigarette smoke, respectively. One researcher likened the process to Russian roulette—"Most of the time the mutations will land in innocent parts of the genome, but some will hit the right targets for cancer."

The BBC notes that a typical smoker racks up one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes smoked, a figure based on the new research. The skin and lung cancer maps are early successes of the International Cancer Genome Consortion, a group of 10 countries that has divided up the task of mapping cancer's varieties.