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Scientists Crack Genetic Codes of Lung, Skin Cancer

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The complete genetic codes of skin and lung cancers have been deciphered, an achievement that will lead to earlier detection and improved treatments for two of the most common cancers, scientists report.

The researchers found that the DNA code for melanoma skin cancer contains more than 30,000 errors and that almost all those errors are caused by too much sun exposure, BBC News reported.

The DNA code of lung cancer has more than 23,000 errors, most of which are caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. The researchers estimated that a typical smoker develops one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes smoked. While most of these mutations are harmless, some will cause cancer.

The research appears in the journal Nature.

Researchers worldwide are investigating the genomes of many types of human cancers -- including breast, stomach, brain, ovary, pancreas, liver and mouth tumors -- to catalogue all the genes that go wrong in these cancers, BBC News reported.

"These catalogues are going to change the way we think about individual cancers," said Professor Michael Stratton, of the Wellcome Trust in Great Britain.

"By identifying all the cancer genes we will be able to develop new drugs that target the specific mutated genes and work out which patients will benefit from these novel treatments," he said. "We can envisage a time when following the removal of a cancer, cataloguing it will become routine."

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