What Smoking Does to Your DNA

Many of the health risks associated with smoking are well documented; from lung cancer and heart disease to emphysema and stroke. But a new study suggests smoking may do something even more frightening……it can leave a lasting imprint on our DNA.

From Fox News:

Smoking may permanently damage DNA—an effect that could lead to the proliferation of life-threatening, smoking-related illnesses, according to a study published Tuesday in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

Researchers drew their results from a wide analysis of genome-wide DNA. They found that smoking had a significant effect on DNA methylation, a mechanism that impacts how genes are expressed, even years after an individual has stopped smoking.

The study reviewed the results of blood samples taken from more than 15,000 people in 16 previous studies. According to CBS News, “researchers also found that for those who stopped smoking, most genes “recovered” within five years of quitting. “Although this emphasizes the long-term residual effects of smoking, the good news is the sooner you can stop smoking , the better off you are,” said study author Dr. Stephanie London. She is deputy chief of the epidemiology branch of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Even so, London’s team found that some genetic changes remained, even 30 years after quitting smoking.”

United Press International (UPI), quoted Dr. Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association, as saying the new research “raises some tantalizing issues.”

“Those of us who deal with smoking as a public health problem understand … that anything you look at seems to be affected by smoking,” he said. “Many cancers, bone disease, lung disease, heart disease, [gastrointestinal] problems — smoking has such a wide array of effects, it’s not especially surprising to hear its epigenetic effects.

“The message here is that smoking has an enormous, widespread impact on your genes,” Edelman added. “Most of it is reversible, but some is not. So if you smoke, you’re going to alter your genetic makeup in a way that’s not totally reversible.”

Smoking rates in Arizona are better than the national average according to the 2015 annual report from ‘America’s Health Rankings.’ Our state ranked 16th nationally with 16.5% of Arizonans saying they are smokers. The national average is 18.1%. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. with an estimated 480,000 deaths every year.

Share your thoughts on this new study and how we might use it in our state to cut smoking rates even more. Being ranked 16th isn’t bad, but getting into the top 5 would be even better! And moving into the top 5 would also help us take another big step toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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