Smoking spells dangers for health. The habit puts abusers at risk of cancer. Furthermore, the risk can run into generations, researchers warn.
Moreover, the habit can permanently damage the genes, thus passing on the risk to children and grandchildren.
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Uppsala University and Uppsala Clinical Research Center in Sweden looked at gene mutations in both smokers and non-smokers.
Researchers found a stupendous number of genes altered in the smokers. However, no such effect was seen in non-smokers.
Genes are passed on from parents to children. But epigenetic modifications, i.e. chemical alterations of the DNA that are affected by gene activity, take place during the lifetime.
While some alterations are normal and are caused by aging, others result from lifestyle and environmental factors.
The study highlighted that the genes of smokers and tobacco users altered with the substance abuse. Such people ran a higher risk of developing diabetes and cancers. They also experienced reduced immunity and poor sperm quality.
But, according to the researchers, tobacco itself does not cause gene alterations. It is the ‘hundreds of different elements that are formed when the tobacco is burnt’ that cause the problem.
“Our results therefore indicate that the increased disease risk associated with smoking is partly a caused by epigenetic changes,” study’s lead investigator, Asa Johansson, researcher at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology at Uppsala University and Uppsala Clinical Research Center, said.
“A better understanding of the molecular mechanism behind diseases and reduced body function might lead to improved drugs and therapies in the future,” Johansson added.
The findings of the study are reported in the current issue of the journal Human Molecular Genetics.