- Epidemiological studies of underground miners suggested that occupational exposure to radon causes lung cancer with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) as the predominant histological type. However, the genetic determinants for susceptibility of radon-induced SCC in miners are unclear. Double-strand breaks induced by radioactive radon daughters are repaired primarily by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) that is accompanied by the dynamic changes in surrounding chromatin, including nucleosome repositioning and histone modifications. Thus, a molecular epidemiological study was conducted to assess whether genetic variation in 16 genes involved in NHEJ and related histone modification affected susceptibility for SCC in radon-exposed former miners (267 SCC cases and 383 controls) from the Colorado plateau. A global association between genetic variation in the haplotype block where SIRT1 resides and the risk for SCC in miners (P = 0.003) was identified. Haplotype alleles tagged by the A allele of SIRT1 rs7097008 were associated with increased risk for SCC (odds ratio = 1.69, P = 8.2 × 10(-5)) and greater survival in SCC cases (hazard ratio = 0.79, P = 0.03) in miners. Functional validation of rs7097008 demonstrated that the A allele was associated with reduced gene expression in bronchial epithelial cells and compromised DNA repair capacity in peripheral lymphocytes. Together, these findings substantiate genetic variation in SIRT1 as a risk modifier for developing SCC in miners and suggest that SIRT1 may also play a tumor suppressor role in radon-induced cancer in miners.