Smoking Permanently Damages DNA

Smoking Permanently Damages DNA

Many studies have proven that smoking is bad for you. One study after another, medical research has warned us that smoking is bad for our lungs, for our heart, for our overall health.

So, of course smoking shouldn’t be part of a healthful lifestyle. But research has now brought to light how invasive the habit can be. We knew that smoking can affect the lungs and that it can cause diseases of the throat. We also knew that it can impact other organs. A new study tells us that the habit of smoking can affect our body at DNA level.

Smoking Affects DNA

A study released this Tuesday looked at 16,000 people in order to assess the risks posed by smoking to our genetic make-up. The study found clear patterns in which smoking damages DNA. The habit leaves a sort of footprint on the DNA, a genetic footprint. This marker has the probability to cause diseases.

Some of these genetic footprints fade with time, in about five years if the smokers choose to quit. But some them seem to remain there forever. With the possibility of passing them on to offspring.

The marks are made on the DNA in a process that is called methylation. Basically, methylation is an alteration of the DNA that makes changes on a gene. It can inactivate a gene or change the way it functions.

Roby Joehanes is with Harvard Medical School and he talked about their study. He said that they found compelling evidence to support their statements. They feel that smoking has an impact that is long lasting at a molecular level. He said that the impact can last for more than 30 years.

Genetic damage causes heart disease and cancer. Some of the genetic damage can be inherited. Which means that you were just born with a higher risk for certain diseases. However, most of the genetic damage happens because of everyday living. Among day-to-day habits that cause genetic damage, smoking is one of the most prominent.

Good News If You Quit

Joehanes said their study also found some good news. Apparently, if you stop smoking now most of the DNA methylation signals go back to levels previous to starting to smoke in about five years. Your body will automatically start a process of healing after you quit smoking. It’s just the body healing from the harmful effects of smoking. The fact that after enough years go by, your DNA can go back to normal, is indeed good news. It’s also another incentive to quit if you are smoking.

Smoking is the number one cause for preventable illness. It kills more than 480,000 American people each year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On a worldwide scale 6 million people die every year from diseases related to smoking, such as cancer, lung disease or heart disease.

Fortunately, smoking rates have gone down in the United States. Now, just 15 percent of adults in the US smoke. While just 11 percent of teenagers are smokers.


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