Wednesday, June 23

Smoke while you're young?

A new life-long study of thousands of British doctors finds that consistent smoking took about 10 years off the people's lives. But surprisingly, smoking while young and then quitting didn't put an appreciable dent in people's lifespans. A Washington Post story on the new study says:

"Doll and Peto said that while the harm of smoking is dramatic, so is the benefit from quitting. According to their findings, a person who stops smoking at 60 will have a life expectancy three years longer than someone who continues; a 40-year-old will have a life expectancy nine years longer; and a 30-year-old will have a life expectancy no different from that of a nonsmoker."

But according to another study cited in the story, it depends in part on the person:

"Also yesterday, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study done at the Boston University School of Medicine that may explain why some but not all former smokers remain at high risk for lung cancer. The researchers found that cigarette smoking changes the pattern of genes expressed in lung cells, and that the changes return to normal in some people who stop smoking, but not in others."

This makes sense to me. If you're smoking, you're killing lung cells, which have to regenerate faster than usual. The faster they regenerate, the higher the chance that they'll accumulate genetic errors that cause them to go haywire and divide out of control, forming a tumor.


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