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Smoking Causes Long-Term Damage To DNA

First Posted: Sep 23, 2016 03:00 AM EDT
A new study has found that DNA can be damaged and altered from smoking.
A new study has found that DNA can be damaged and altered from smoking.
(Carl Court/Getty Images)

Smoking has always been bad for one's health. This has not been disputed after years of studies on the effects of smoking. Its long-term effects, though, are what researchers have been focusing on in recent studies. Now a study shows that smoking might affect people on the DNA level.

Smoking can affect as much as 7,000 genes and alter them. These genetic changes could remain years after smokers have given up smoking. The genetic changes have been found to still be there 30 years after some of the smokers have quit.

The DNA alteration is called methylation wherein a gene could have its functions changed. Genes could also become inactive as a result of this alteration. This gene alteration could then lead to diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular ailments. It has been found out that smoking is one of the biggest culprits of this DNA alteration.

While the long-term effect of smoking might be there, researchers have also noted that genes could recover within five years after smokers have quit smoking, as CBS News reports. For those who would want to give up smoking, this could be one reason to do so.

"Although this emphasizes the long-term residual effects of smoking, the good news is the sooner you can stop smoking, the better off you are," Dr. Stephanie London, study author and deputy chief of the epidemiology branch of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said.

Blood samples have been taken from 16,000 people from studies that go as far back as 1971. The team studied these blood samples and found methylation changes to 7,000 genes. Many of the genes that were affected have links to heart disease and cancer, NBC News says. Smoking-related changes in 19 genes such as TIAM2 still remained for those who have quit smoking.

The study observes that long-term risks remained for those who have stopped smoking. While it is not yet understood how those long-term effects work, the study shows that DNA alteration might be one possible explanation as to why smoking's long-term effects exist.

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