Smoking triggers hundreds of permanent DNA mutations every year

If you’re still smoking, new research might motivate you to finally kick the habit. A study recently published in the journal Science shows cigarettes can trigger hundreds of DNA mutations in vital organs every year.

There’s already a large body of evidence linking smoking with cancer, but now we have new insight into how tobacco smoke actually causes the disease. The researchers scanned the genome sequences of more than 5,000 tumors from 17 types of cancer for which smoking is a risk factor. They found that smoking a pack a day leads to a number of potential DNA mutations in major organs of the body every year you smoke — and each mutation increases the risk of cells becoming cancerous.

They found the DNA changes are permanent even if you give up smoking, so if you’re still a smoker, it’s important to quit as soon as possible.

Devastating damage was found in areas you might expect, like the lungs and mouth. But damage was also shown in other organs not directly exposed to smoke. They found 150 mutations in the lungs, 97 in the voice box, 23 in the mouth, 18 in the bladder and six in the liver. This helps explain how smoking causes various types of cancer throughout the body, not just lung cancer.

Related: Is vaping as bad as smoking?

It’s important to remember that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. Every cigarette contains at least 60 carcinogens, which is why it’s a risk factor for 17 types of cancer and kills six million people every year. Smoking also causes heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

There are many resources available for people who want to quit. Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapies or prescription medication that can help reduce the urge to smoke.

What will it take to quit?

“Explore."

About the author

Roger Khetan, MD
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Roger Khetan, MD, FACP, FHM is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Dr. Khetan received his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and completed his internship at the same institution. Dr. Khetan completed a residency in anesthesiology at Allegheny General Hospital and a residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is a member of the American Medical Association, Dallas County Medical Society, American College of Physicians, Society of Hospital Medicine, Texas Club of Internists and the Texas Medical Association. Dr. Khetan is professionally interested in preventative health care, heart disease, geriatrics, asthma and chronic disease management. He also has interest in lobbying locally, statewide and nationally for patient and provider rights.

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Smoking triggers hundreds of permanent DNA mutations every year