Smoking is hazardous to your health—it says so right on the side of the package. What it doesn’t say is that your DNA could be permanently affected by the habit. A new study suggests that more than 7,000 genes could be altered, “in ways that may contribute to the development of smoking-related diseases,” according to Health.com. However, if you stop smoking, most genes recover within five years—although researchers found some genetic changes remained 30 years after kicking the habit.
“Although this emphasizes the long-term residual effects of smoking, the good news is the sooner you can stop smoking, the better off you are,” study author Dr. Stephanie J. London, who is deputy chief of the epidemiology branch of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said in the Health.com article.
The study centers around something called DNA methylation, which, according to Health.com, are “genetic changes that don’t alter genes’ underlying code but can change how they’re expressed, or turned on.”
Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death worldwide. Some 6 million people die every year as a result of smoking, as reported by Health.com.
Dr. Norman H. Edelman is a senior scientific adviser for the American Lung Association. In the Health.com article, he sums it up this way: “The message here is that smoking has an enormous, widespread impact on your genes. Most of it is reversible, but some is not. So if you smoke, you’re going to alter your genetic makeup in a way that’s not totally reversible.”
The video below has more on the DNA story, and if you do smoke and want to stop, well, let’s just say there are a few videos on that subject, too.