It’s hard to believe that any more information was needed to make the decision to quitting smoking, or even better, never taking up the habit in the first place do to health reasons. But, sure enough, a new study shows another with its publication in Science this week showing that it does extensive damage to DNA.

Smoking DNA
Photo by Geralt (Pixabay)

Extent of smoking’s damage to DNA revealed

For any smokers reading this, you know it’s time to quit and it I’m not a hypocrite, so I too have another reason to quit as I’m a heavy smoker myself typing this with a cigarette in my right hand so, please don’t take that lead-in as righteous indignation.

Unlike the effects that smoking has over years upon years of the habit, the study published on Thursday shows that major damage can be done to DNA in organs in just a year of smoking a pack a day. And, not surprisingly, it doesn’t get better with multiple years or decades of smoking.

The direct exposure to smoke is to blame, and the study shows that over that aforementioned year of smoking causes about 150 mutations in the DNA of the lungs occur, just under 100 in the larynx and another 39 in the mouth.

Ludmil Alexandrov of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, who led the study said upon publication, “Tobacco smoking damages DNA in organs directly exposed to smoke as well as speeds up a mutational cellular clock in organs that are both directly and indirectly exposed to smoke.”

“Before now, we had a large body of epidemiological evidence linking smoking with cancer, but now we can observe and quantify the molecular changes in the DNA due to cigarette smoking,” Alexandrov added. The paper suggests that smoking kills around six million people each year and is linked to 17 separate cancers.

And understand that these DNA mutations affect the smoker directly, often when we think of DNA we relate it to the problems we could potentially give our offspring.

“With this study, we have found that people who smoke a pack a day develop an average of 150 extra mutations in their lungs every year, which explains why smokers have such a higher risk of developing lung cancer,” Alexandrov said.

While nicotine is largely the addictive factor in cigarettes, nicotine is not in it of itself dangerous for the most part. While it’s potent and can affect the mood, and kill you in large pure doses, it often works as a helpful appetite suppressant for many.

The problem is the over 60 carcinogens involved when you inhale tobacco smoke.

How the study was conducted to reach its conclusion

The research team involved in the recently published paper analyzed the genomes of over 5,000 tumors from smokers and non-smokers alike. The tumors were from all seventeen cancers where smoking is a health factor and increases the risk of cancer.

The results “reveal a picture of direct and indirect effects,” said David Phillips, professor of environmental carcinogenesis at Kings College London who was a member of the research team.

“Mutations caused by direct DNA damage from carcinogens in tobacco were seen mainly in organs that come into direct contact with inhaled smoke,” Phillips continued.

“In contrast, other cells of the body suffered only indirect damage, as tobacco smoking seems to affect key mechanisms in these cells that in turn mutate DNA.”

If you actually needed another reason to quit, you have a concrete new one with the release of this paper yesterday.