Despite many campaigns and laws to curb the use, Smoking still remains the main preventable cause of death worldwide. In related news, a significant study revealed that Smoking causes long-lasting damage to human DNA. Cancer and Heart disease are both caused by genetic damage, some of which is inherited, and most of which is caused by day-to-day living. Smoking is one of the biggest modern lifestyle habits that can damage your health. So the study holds significance in this regard. Read on for details.
A team of scientists from around the world examined about 16,000 blood samples from people taking part in various studies since 1971. The study was aimed to determine the association between Cigarette Smoking and DNA Methylation, so the scientists conducted a meta-analysis of DNA methylation sites across the human genome. DNA methylation is a process by which methyl groups are added to DNA, which modify the function of the DNA. The study published in the American Heart Association journal in September 2016 found that Cigarette smoking has a broad impact on genome-wide methylation, and the effect lasts for many years even after people quit smoking. They can last for more than 30 years, according to a scientist involved in the study.
The scientists found a pattern of methylation changes in smokers – affecting more than 7,000 genes (one-third of known human genes) – many of which had known links to smoking-caused heart disease and cancers. So they also note that the Methylation mechanism can serve as a sensitive and stable biomarker of lifetime exposure to Tobacco Smoke, which leads to adverse health outcomes like Cancers, Osteoporosis, and Lung and Cardiovascular disorders.
Good news from the study is when you quit smoking; most of the disease-causing genetic footprints left by smoking fade after five years, when your body tries to heal itself of the harmful impacts. However, some genetic footprints appear to stay there forever. Science today has not understood well the mechanisms for these long-term effects, but DNA methylation changes have been proposed as one possible explanation. And for the plus side, scientists are hopeful that the latest findings have potential to develop new treatments targeted towards the smoking-related DNA methylation sites.