Smoking Can Damage Your DNA Permanently, Research Says

The destructive impact of cigarette smoking on individual body’s DNA has been laid bare by the first comprehensive study into the damage tobacco inflicts on human cells. Based on the study, people who smoke a pack of cigarettes each day for a year is possible to develop on average 150 extra mutations in every lung cell, and nearly 100 more mutations than usual in each cell of the voice box. More still build up in the mouth, bladder, liver and other organs in the body.

“This is about running down the root cause of cancers,” said David Phillips, a professor of environmental carcinogenesis at King’s College London and a co-author on the study. “By identifying the root causes, we gain the sort of knowledge we need to think more seriously about cancer prevention.”

Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day causes an average of 150 mutations a year in lung cells. This is a scientific finding of a new research that specifically identify the different ways that cigarette smoke exposure damages DNA. The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, was carried out by an international group of researchers from Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States.

According to The Guardian, more than 70 of the 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer. Some damage DNA directly, but others ramp up mutations in more subtle ways, often by disrupting the way cells function. The more mutations a cell acquires, the more likely it is to turn cancerous.

"You can really think of it as playing Russian roulette," said Ludmil Alexandrov, a theoretical biologist at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico and the first author of the study. "You can miss the right genes. But if you smoke you still play the game. It's a very strong message for people not to start smoking. If you smoke even a little bit you'll erode the genetic material of most of the cells in your body." Smoking is the most preventable cause of cancer in the world and accounts for more than 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths.

Researchers hope that by understanding the risk of damaging the DNA permanently and having different kinds of cancer through the ingredients of the tobacco and the smoking itself, people will develop new methods to prevent the disease. The same techniques used in the latest study regarding how alcohol can make a person obese.


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