Smoke damage: Cigarettes permanently scar your DNA

By inhaling cigarette smoke you are permanently damaging your DNA but the study also finds quitting shows DNA tries to repair itself back to non-smoker status.

As if there wasn’t enough reasons to quit smoking, a new study has found cigarettes can actually cause permanent damage to your DNA altering genes that function towards development of smoking-related health problems such as cancer and heart disease.

And there’s good news – those that quit smoking saw their genes recover from the damage after a five year period although some of the 7,000 genes affected had irreversible impairment.

The study led by Dr. Stephanie London, chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, focused on a process called DNA methylation where genes were changed through the way they are turned on or expressed but with no change to the overall coding of the gene. Previous studies were looked at using this process by nearly 15,000 people who provided blood samples. 

Three groups were formed: current smokers, smokers who had quit at least a year before giving blood and those who had never smoked.

They found that the 2,433 current smokers in the study had 2,623 different methylated locations on their genes compared to those that had never smoked. It’s these genes that are involved in various cigarette-related diseases such as cancers, high blood pressure and heart disease.

The research shows that those willing to quit will see a considerable benefit to their health in five years.

“The encouraging news is that once you stop smoking, the majority of DNA methylation signals return to never-smoker levels after five years, which means your body is trying to heal itself of the harmful impacts of tobacco smoking,” stated Roby Joehanes of Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School.

London added, “Stop smoking now because many, many, many of the effects of smoking will go away.” 

Details of the study were published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

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