Study Links Genetic Roots of Cannabis Use Disorder to Lung Cancer Risk

Delving into the Genetic Roots of Cannabis Use Disorder and Its Link to Lung Cancer Risk

A recent study published in the esteemed journal Nature Genetics has shed new light on the genetic underpinnings of cannabis use disorder (CUD) and its far-reaching consequences for public health. This comprehensive research, led by a team of dedicated scientists, employed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to unravel the complex genetic architecture of CUD, utilizing the vast trove of data from the Million Veteran Program database, one of the world’s largest biobanks.

The study’s findings paint a compelling picture of CUD’s genetic susceptibility, identifying 22 independent genome-wide significant (GWS) loci associated with the disorder in individuals of European ancestry. Moreover, two GWS loci were identified in African ancestry, one in admixed American ancestry, and two in East Asian ancestry. These findings underscore the genetic diversity of CUD across various populations.

The study further delved into the genetic correlations between CUD and cannabis use traits, revealing a striking overlap with pathological and negative traits. This observation suggests that individuals with a genetic predisposition to CUD may be more vulnerable to developing adverse consequences associated with cannabis use.

A particularly noteworthy aspect of the study lies in its exploration of the causal relationships between CUD and other health conditions. The researchers identified a bidirectional causal relationship between CUD and schizophrenia, implying a complex interplay between the two disorders. Additionally, the study uncovered a unidirectional causal effect of multi-site chronic pain on CUD, suggesting that chronic pain may serve as a driving factor for developing CUD.

Perhaps the most striking finding of the study is the identification of a unidirectional causal effect of CUD on lung cancer. This observation highlights the potential increased risk of lung cancer associated with CUD, even when accounting for smoking initiation. While further research is warranted to fully elucidate the mechanisms underlying this association, it underscores the importance of considering CUD as a potential risk factor for lung cancer.

The study’s exploration of the transcriptome-wide association study (TWAS) yielded valuable insights into the genes potentially involved in CUD. The TWAS identified 36 and 15 genes associated with CUD using adult and fetal brain frontal cortex expression, respectively. Notably, the gene DALRD3 was identified in both the adult and fetal brain, suggesting its potential role in CUD development.

Furthermore, the study’s estimation of SNP-based heritability of CUD revealed significant enrichments for the fetal brain frontal cortex but not for the adult brain cortex. This intriguing observation suggests that genetic factors may play a crucial role in inducing CUD in the developing brain, even before cannabis exposure.

What is Cannabis Use Disorder?

According to report, Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), also known as cannabis addiction or marijuana addiction, is a mental disorder characterized by the continued use of cannabis despite negative consequences. It is classified as a substance use disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Symptoms of CUD

CUD is diagnosed based on the presence of at least two of the following symptoms within a 12-month period:

  • Tolerance: Needing to use more cannabis to get the same effect
  • Withdrawal: Experiencing physical or psychological symptoms when trying to stop or reduce cannabis use
  • Cravings: Strong urges or desires to use cannabis
  • Loss of control: Using cannabis more than intended or for longer periods than intended
  • Continued use despite negative consequences: Continuing to use cannabis despite knowing it is causing problems in your life, such as problems at work, school, or relationships
  • Neglecting important activities: Spending less time on activities you used to enjoy due to cannabis use
  • Social isolation: Avoiding or reducing social activities in order to use cannabis
  • Risk-taking behavior: Engaging in risky activities while under the influence of cannabis, such as driving or having unprotected sex
  • Psychological distress: Experiencing psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, or psychosis, that are worsened by cannabis use

Risk factors for CUD

Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing CUD, including:

  • Genetics: Having a family history of substance use disorders
  • Early use: Starting to use cannabis at a young age
  • Mental health conditions: Having a diagnosis of another mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression
  • Trauma: Experiencing trauma or abuse

In conclusion, the study published in Nature Genetics marks a significant step forward in our understanding of the genetic underpinnings of CUD and its intricate relationship with lung cancer risk. The study’s findings underscore the importance of further research to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these associations and develop effective interventions for CUD prevention and treatment.

Study Resources:

1. Journal Nature Genetics: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-023-01563-z#Sec12


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