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Study exposes damage caused by smoking

November 15, 2016 | by CTCA

Smoke
It’s no earth-shattering revelation that smoking is bad for you—it has been linked recently to nearly 30 percent of cancer deaths in the United States, for starters. But a new study reveals for the first time that smoking does more than harm your health; it actually damages the body’s DNA.

It’s no earth-shattering revelation that smoking is bad for you—it has been linked recently to nearly 30 percent of cancer deaths in the United States, for starters. But a new study reveals for the first time that smoking does more than harm your health; it actually damages the body’s DNA.

According to study results published this month in the journal Science, researchers found that after just one year of smoking a pack of cigarettes each day, the patients studied developed new gene mutations—97 mutations in the cells lining the larynx, 39 in the cells of the pharynx and 23 in the cells in the oral cavity. Some of those mutations were harmless, but the more there are, the greater the risk that one or more of them will develop into cancer.

Even organs with no direct exposure to tobacco smoke appeared to be affected. The researchers counted about 18 new mutations in every bladder cell and six new mutations in every liver cell for each year that smokers inhaled a pack per day.

"This study confirms, at the molecular level, what we have known for many years,” says Bruce Gershenhorn, DO, Medical Oncologist at our hospital near Chicago. He was not involved in the study. “The toxins in cigarettes cause direct DNA damage, resulting in hundreds of cancer-causing mutations.”

The findings are based on a genetic analysis of more than 5,000 tumors, including 2,490 cancers removed from smokers and 1,063 from patients who said they had never smoked. “This information will hopefully empower researchers to develop new targeted approaches to eradicating deadly cancer cells,” says Dr. Gershenhorn.

Smoking is a risk factor for at least 17 types of cancer and is estimated to kill nearly 6 million people worldwide each year. Tobacco smoke is a mixture of chemicals, 60 of which are known carcinogens. According to the American Lung Association, men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than someone who’s never smoked, and women are 13 times more likely.

To raise awareness and help Americans quit smoking, the American Cancer Society (ACS) sets aside a day each year to encourage smokers to kick the habit as part of its Great American Smokeout event. This year, it’s Thursday, Nov. 17. According to the ACS, about 40 million Americans smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. Even quitting for one day is a huge step toward a healthier life.

A number of cessation methods are available to help, including nicotine replacement products such as nicotine gum, patches or lollipops. Nicotine replacement therapy may also help ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the desire to smoke. Other medications are designed to block the effects of nicotine and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Counseling may help, too.

 “As we shine more light on the disastrous health effects of cigarette smoking, we need to strengthen our focus on smoking cessation programs,” says Dr. Gershenhorn.