Though a lot of people know that smoking cigarettes can lead to respiratory problems, a new research suggests that the consequences might be far deeper. According to the conducted study more than 7,000 genes may be changed by smoking in such a manner that it can lead an individual to suffer from smoking-related ailments.
For the purpose of the current study a total of 16 already conducted researches were observed. The collected data had blood sample results of approximately 16,000 individuals. The study also showed that if an individual stopped smoking, some of their altered genes could recover within 5 years.
According to the author of the study, Dr. Stephanie London, the current results do focus on the long-term effects of smoking. However, an individual should quit smoking as early as possible in order to make their altered genes come back to normal and reduce risk of developing diseases. Dr. London is also the deputy chief of the epidemiology branch of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The researchers of the study noted that even though some of the genes returned to normal, some other genetic changes remained even thirty years after a person quit smoking. The current study focused on the process of DNA methylation. This process is related to the genetic modifications that don’t change the underlying code of the gene. However, it can alter the expression of genes.
Almost 6 million people die every year due to cigarette smoking. It is also one of the most leading causes of deaths. Smoking has been proven to give rise to numerous diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and even cancer. Even if a person quits smoking, the already occurred DNA methylation could be a reason why a person might be at risk of developing such diseases later on.
The DNA methylation sites of people who had quit smoking and those who were currently smoking were compared to individuals who had never smoked. This allowed researchers to see that some sites of DNA methylation were present even after decades of quitting. They also found out that smoke-related DNA sites had a link with a total of 7,000 genes in the human body.
The current study was published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.
The senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association, Dr. Normal Edelman, also shared his opinion regarding the new study. He said that even though the new research wasn’t able to establish a concrete cause-and-effect relationship between genetic changes due to smoking giving rise to health problems, it did show that almost everything in the human body is affected by cigarette smoking. He added that the current study shared a very clear message. If an individual smokes then he or she is altering their own genetic makeup. Some of the damage might repair with time. But there are other negative genetic alternation effects that won’t go away even years after one quits smoking.
According to Dr. London, the identification of smoking-related DNA changes may lead to the development of diagnostic tools that might help to efficiently evaluate the smoking history of a patient. It can also help identify people who lie about their smoking habits. The creation of such a tool might even lead to treatments meant to repair DNA methylation sites in order to reduce risk of smoking-related diseases in people.