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Influence of tobacco smoke on genes

By Tim Sandle     Dec 19, 2013 in Health
A new research report suggests that tobacco smoking alters several genes that can be associated with health problems for smokers, such as increased risk for cancer and diabetes.
Whilst our genetic code is set by what we inherit from our parents, genetic material can be changed by epigenetic modifications. These are chemical alterations of the DNA the affect the activity of the genes. Triggers for this can include lifestyle factors, diet; or from exposure to radiation or to carcinogenic agents.
In a new study, researchers have examined how the genes are changed in smokers and users of non-smoke tobacco. The research group identified a large number of genes that were altered in smokers but found no such effect of non-smoke tobacco.
This meant that the changes were unlikely to have been caused by tobacco but rather through the chemical changes that occur when tobacco is burnt. When tobacco is burnt, as with smoking a cigarette, hundreds of different elements that are formed. These appear to influence genetic make-up.
It could be that these changes to genes increase the risk for cancer and diabetes. This will be the subject of further research.
The research was undertaken at the Uppsala University and Uppsala Clinical Research Center. The findings have been published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics in a paper titled “Smoke related DNA methylation changes in the etiology of human disease”.
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