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Pack-a-day smoking causes 150 lung cell mutations in 1 year: Study

By Ryan Maass
Pack-a-day smoking causes 150 lung cell mutations in 1 year: Study
Genetic damage from cigarette smoke may play a role in increasing the risk of cancer, scientists say. Photo by Kari Söderholm/Flickr

HINXTON, England, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Smoking cigarettes may result in significant genetic damage, a collaborative research team concluded in a recent study.

While smoking has long been associated with at least 17 different types of cancer, scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Los Alamos National Laboratory warn there are additional risks. In a study published in the journal Science, authors found smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for a year led to 150 extra mutations in every lung cell.

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The lungs were not the only organs affected in the study. An estimated average of 97 mutations were found in each cell in the larynx, 39 in the pharynx, 23 in the mouth, 18 in the bladder, and 6 in the liver.

"Before now, we had a large body of epidemiological evidence linking smoking with cancer, but now we can actually observe and quantify the molecular changes in the DNA due to cigarette smoking," first author Ludmil Alexandrov said in a press release.

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During the study, scientists analyzed over 5,000 tumors and compared cancers from smokers to cancers from non-smokers. The DNA in smokers were found to have common mutations and genetic damage.

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The research team says their study provides a firmer explanation for how smoking increases the risk of cancer in several areas of the body, including those that do not come into direct contact with tobacco smoke.

"The genome of every cancer provides a kind of 'archaeological record', written in the DNA code itself, of the exposures that caused the mutations that lead to the cancer," explained joint lead author Sir Mike Stratton from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "Our research indicates that the way tobacco smoking causes cancer is more complex than we thought."

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