Although cigarette smoking and alcohol use are known risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck (SCCHN), only a few exposed individuals develop this disease, suggesting an individual susceptibility. In this study, we investigated the associations between genetically determined DNA repair capacity (DRC) for removing tobacco-induced DNA adducts and risk of SCCHN and tumor characteristics.
We measured DRC in cultured T-lymphocytes using the host-cell reactivation assay in a hospital-based case-control study of 744 SCCHN patients and 753 age-, sex-and ethnicity-matched cancer-free controls recruited from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Patients with SCCHN had significantly lower mean DRC (8.84% ± 2.68%) than controls (9.97% ± 2.61%) (P < 0.0001), and the difference accounted for approximately 2-fold increased risk of SCCHN (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.91; 95% CI, 1.52–2.40) after adjustment for other covariates. Compared with the highest DRC quartile of controls, this increased risk was dose-dependent (second highest quartile: OR, 1.40; 95% CI, 0.99–1.98; third quartile: OR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.34–2.62; and fourth quartile: OR, 2.76; 95% CI, 1.98–3.84, respectively; Ptrend < 0.0001). We also assessed the performance of DRC in risk prediction models by calculating the area of under the receiver operating characteristic curve. The addition of DRC to the model significantly improved the sensitivity of the expanded model. However, we did not find the association between DRC and tumor sites and stages.
DRC is an independent susceptibility biomarker for SCCHN risk but not a tumor marker.