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Smoking Alters Hundreds of Genes, Study Finds

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Smoking causes dangerous changes in literally hundreds of genes in the body, including those related to tumor growth, inflammatory disease and immune-system suppression, according to researchers from the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research.

WebMD reported July 15 that researcher Jac C. Charlesworth, Ph.D., and colleagues identified 323 genes that were altered by exposure to tobacco smoke, which contains an estimated 4,000 individual compounds, many of them toxic.

The findings were based on examination of the white blood cells of 1,240 people who had been genetically profiled during an unrelated study dating back to 1991. “We have long known that smoking increases a person's risk for cancer and depresses the immune system,” said Charlesworth. “What we show here is that smoking alters the body at the DNA level.”

The study was published in the journal BMC Medical Genomics.

 

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