Oral cancer is a major head and neck cancer that is reported to be causally associated with genetic factors and environmental carcinogens. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) was reported to modulate carcinogenesis and progression through nitric oxide (NO) production. Genetic polymorphisms in the eNOS gene can regulate its transcription and further mediate NO production. The purpose of this study was to explore the influences of eNOS gene polymorphisms combined with environmental carcinogens on the predisposition for oral cancer. Two single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the eNOS gene, −786 T > C (rs2070744) and 894G > T (rs1799983), were genotyped in 1200 controls and 1044 patients with oral cancer using a TaqMan-based real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We found that patients who carried the −786 T > C TC genotype were at higher risk for developing an advanced clinical stage (stage III/IV) compared to those with the −786 T > C TT genotype; however, there was no significant association of the two individual SNPs with oral cancer between patients and the control group. According to behavioral exposure to environmental carcinogens, the presence of these two eNOS SNPs combined with tobacco use and/or betel quid chewing profoundly enhanced the risk of oral cancer. Moreover, carriers with the betel quid-chewing habit who had haplotypes of the two eNOS SNPs more easily developed oral cancer. These results indicated an involvement of −786 T > C polymorphisms in the progression of oral cancer and support the interaction between eNOS gene polymorphisms and environmental carcinogens as a predisposing factor of oral carcinogenesis.
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