Copyright © 2015 Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Genetics Society of China. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a number of chromosomal regions associated with the risk of lung cancer. Of these regions, single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), especially rs2736100 located in the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene show unique and significant association with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in a few subpopulations including women, nonsmokers, East Asians and those with adenocarcinoma. Recent studies have also linked rs2736100 with a longer telomere length and lung cancer risk. In this review, we seek to summarize the relationship between these factors and to further link the underlying telomere biology to lung cancer etiology. We conclude that genetic alleles combined with environmental (e.g., less-smoking) and physiological factors (gender and age) that confer longer telomere length are strong risk factors for NSCLC. This linkage may be particularly relevant in lung adenocarcinoma driven by epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, as these mutations have also been strongly linked to female gender, less-smoking history, adenocarcinoma histology and East Asian ethnicity. By establishing this connection, a strong argument is made for further investigating of the involvement of these entities during the tumorigenesis of NSCLC.