13 Feb Yet to quit smoking? It’s not too late!
It is widely known that cigarette smoke causes cancer – a process driven by more than 60 carcinogens that directly damage and mutate our DNA. However, research conducted by Cancer research UK has shown that those who are ex-smokers have genetically healthy lungs comparatively to those who are current smokers – significantly decreasing their risk of developing cancer.
Carcinogens in cigarette smoke result in the DNA of the cells lining the lungs to undergo genetic mutations, it is these mutations that can result in the cells dividing uncontrollably and thus result in cancer.
The study found 9 out of 10 lung cells in current smokers had up to 10,000 extra genetic mutations comparatively to non-smokers; all caused directly by the chemicals in tobacco smoke. Unexpectedly in the group that had stopped smoking there was a large number of cells which had escaped genetic damage. These cells were genetically on par with those from people who have never smoked. It is these healthy cells that can start to repair the lining of the airways in ex-smokers and help protect against lung cancer.
While the study showed that the healthy lung cells could start to repair the lining of the airways in ex-smokers and help protect them against lung cancer, the deeper damage to the lung is not reversible even after quitting smoking.
Dr Rachel Orritt, Health Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s a really motivating idea that people who stop smoking might reap the benefits twice over—by preventing more tobacco-related damage to lung cells, and by giving their lungs the chance to balance out some of the existing damage with healthier cells. What’s needed now are larger studies that look at cell changes in the same people over time to confirm these findings.
So, if you haven’t quit yet, now is your chance. These results are evidence that if you smoke, stopping completely is the best thing you can do for your health and your DNA.