Even though we know smoking causes cancer, a new study is showing us more specifically why. It found that cigarette smoke does the greatest damage to cells it comes into contact with. It also increases the occurrence of genetic mutations in those organs as well as organs not directly exposed to smoke.
By examining the DNA sequences of over 5,000 smoking cancers, researchers found that smoking one pack a day for one year resulted in 150 mutations in the cells of the lung, 97 in the larynx, 39 in the pharynx, and 23 in the mouth. But organs indirectly affected by smoking also had greater risk for cancer. They found 18 mutations in bladder cells and six in liver cells.
This study also identified one specific DNA mutation present in all smoking related cancers which appeared to increase the rate of mutations. Since mutations pass onto daughter cells, the accumulation of mutations over the years is what raises a smoker’s chances of getting cancer. Other behaviors such as drinking alcohol and environmental pollutants can also contribute to the accumulation of cancer causing mutations.
So, if these cells are also exposed to cigarette smoke, they will accumulate additional mutations. This highlights the importance of quitting smoking as soon as possible or better yet, don’t start. Smoking increases a person’s chance for getting at least 17 types of human cancer and contributes to the deaths of 6 million people every year. If you don’t quit smoking for yourself, do it for your family, friends and co-workers who inhale an even more toxic second hand smoke.
For more information…
Mutational signatures associated with tobacco smoking in human cancer
Ludmil B. Alexandrov, et al. Science, Vol. 354, Issue 6312, pp. 618-622
Smoking causes extensive damage to DNA, study shows
The vast amount of damage that smoking can have on your DNA has been revealed in a new study exploring how tobacco smoke affects cells within the human body.
How to Quit Smoking
Most smokers today know that smoking is bad for their health and harmful to people around them. They know they should quit but they also know it's going to be hard. Fortunately, there's lots of help available. The American Lung Association can help smokers figure out their reasons for quitting and then take the big step of quitting for good.