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Home Industry News Smoking ‘can have a long-term impact on human genome’

Smoking ‘can have a long-term impact on human genome’

23rd September 2016

A new study has demonstrated the long-term impact that smoking can have on a person's genetic make-up.

The US study assessed DNA methylation sites across the human genome using blood samples taken from nearly 16,000 participants from 16 groups of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genetic Epidemiology Consortium.

Smoking-associated DNA methylation sites were found in more than 7,000 genes, or one-third of all known human genes. For those who stopped smoking, the majority of sites returned to normal within five years of quitting, but some persisted even after 30 years of quitting.

The most statistically significant sites were linked to genes enriched for association with numerous diseases known to be exacerbated by cigarette smoking, including cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.

Dr Roby Joehanes, first author and instructor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said: "The encouraging news is that once you stop smoking, the majority of DNA methylation signals return to never smoker levels after five years, which means your body is trying to heal itself of the harmful impacts of tobacco smoking."

Not only does this mean that DNA methylation could be used as a method of assessing an individual's smoking history, but the discovery could also provide researchers with potential targets for new therapies.

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