According to the latest study in the field, smoking causes irreparable DNA damage, more than 7,000 genes being altered in the process. These unnatural modifications are major contributors to the development of diseases related to the habit.
Smoking Causes Irreparable DNA Damage
The paper was published this Tuesday in the online version of the American Heart Association magazine. According to the Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics study, people who smoke alter their genetics through a process called DNA methylation.
By flooding the body with all of the toxins contained in the cigarette smoke, smokers interfere with the gene expression control process, thus causing genetic damage, making their bodies more susceptible to diseases related to the habit like cancer.
How Does Smoking Affect Our Genes?
The cited study is the most comprehensive paper in the field, examining all of the potential effects of smoking on the DNA methylation process.
DNA methylation deals with the epigenetic gene regulation. This translates into a modification of the DNA functions. The process also plays a role in gene transcription repression and the regulation of disease development.
In simpler terms, DNA methylation, the process that is affected by cigarette smoke, is the one deciding which diseases we will develop and which not. By altering its function with cigarette smoke ingestion, smokers only make themselves more vulnerable to the diseases related to smoking.
Is There Any Way to Repair the Damage?
According to the study, smoking causes irreparable DNA damage in most parts. There is the possibility of diminishing the effects if the habit is eliminated, but most of the negative consequences remain as a footprint on our genes.
Researchers are trying to determine whether or not this distinct sign left behind by nicotine addiction can be used to the advantage of the patient. They wish to see if the footprint can be used as a clue to the nature of the diseases that the smoker is most vulnerable for.
The scientists used a sample of 16,000 individuals in their research. The participants were part of a total of 16 groups that were previously part of other, smaller studies.
The team compared and analyzed the methylation sites in individuals who were active and smokers, in people who managed to kick the habit and those who never smoked a cigarette in their life.
According to the results of the study, the individuals who quit smoking for more than five years had genes that resembled more to those belonging to the non-smoking category. However, there were still some genes that were permanently affected, the damage being present even in those who managed to steer clear of cigarettes for more than 30 years.
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