Lung Cancer Genetic Testing

Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, affecting thousands of people and killing more than 160,000 Americans annually. Internationally, millions of people die from lung cancer every year.

It is common knowledge that smoking is the most widespread cause of lung cancer. However, many longtime smokers never develop lung cancer, and it is also possible for non-smokers to develop the disease.

Since non-smokers can develop lung cancer, you may be wondering, “Is lung cancer genetic?” In recent years, scientists have found genetic patterns in lung cancer, and therefore believe that the development of this disease may be partially attributable to our genes.

Genetic Patterns in Lung Cancer

Your genes are inherited from your parents, and each person has a unique combination of genes. Certain genes determine characteristics such as eye color and food allergies. Recent advances in genetic studies have shown that other genes point to diseases such as Down’s Syndrome and certain types of cancer.

So, what is the genetics of lung cancer? Several studies have pointed to a specific gene that makes people more vulnerable to lung cancer. This means that if you are carrying this gene, you are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. Someone that does not carry this gene is less likely to develop lung cancer, even if they do smoke.

Recent research on genetic patterns in lung cancer has pinpointed this gene on chromosome 15 (humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes). Though there are possible genetic patterns for lung cancer, tobacco smoke is still the largest factor in determining your risk for the disease. Whether or not you are predisposed to lung cancer, doctors will always advise against smoking.

Genetic Testing for Lung Cancer

Now that researchers have pinpointed the gene that may predispose you to lung cancer, it is possible to see if you carry that gene by undergoing genetic testing.

Genetic testing does not have to be painful or invasive. Genetic information can be obtained in a variety of ways, including through:

  • amniotic fluid (for pre-natal testing)
  • blood
  • cheek/mouth swabs
  • hair
  • skin.

If you are interested in genetic testing, you may want to consult with your primary care physician to explore your options. Your physician may then request the test if you decide to proceed. Additionally, some reputable agencies provide the tests directly to consumers. It is now possible to take the test in the privacy of your own home and receive quick and accurate results within a few weeks.

Doctors may recommend that you undergo genetic testing for lung cancer if you are:

  • a child of a smoker
  • a former smoker yourself
  • a long-term smoker
  • from a family with a history of lung cancer.

Reasons to Get Tested

The risks of genetic testing are very limited and the cost is relatively low. Additionally, receiving your test results can greatly improve the quality of your life. A negative result can set your mind at ease, while if the test is positive, you can take preventative steps to stay healthy and take care of your body.


Medline Plus (n.d.). Genetic Testing. Retrieved on November 11, 2008, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health Web site:

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center (2008). Lung Cancer Risk In Smokers And Former Smokers Linked To Genetic Variations. Retrieved November 11, 2008, from The Science Daily Web site: