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Tags Current Affairs

Quitting smoking can reverse cancer risk

Date: 15 February 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


 A study published in the journal Nature says quitting can help reverse the potential risk by replenishing the cells that can actually resemble those of a person who has never smoked.



A human body is structured to bear damage, but only for some time. A cigarette has 60 carcinogens that can damage or mutate DNA in the human body, and can cause 1,000 to 10,000 mutations per cell.



  • The researchers identified “driver mutations” as being more frequent in people smoking or with a history of smoking.

  • Driver mutation is like a biochemical causing cell to mutate and lead to cancer. The key finding was that gradually the cell mutation burden in ex-smokers becomes similar to that of non-smokers.

  • Ex-smokers have many cells with lots of mutations that non-smokers don’t have, but importantly a large fraction of the cells (up to 40%) don’t have mutations — meaning healthy cells are gradually replacing the mutated or damaged cells.

  • By stopping smoking in middle age or earlier, smokers avoid most of the risk of tobacco-associated lung cancer. This benefit begins to emerge almost immediately and accrues steadily with time.

  • The key message from the research is that stopping smoking, at any age, is important and rapidly reduces risk of getting lung cancer. Emphysema if caused, however, is irreversible.

Effects of smoking

  • The constant damage to the cells lining the airway and lungs can lead to cancers in the lungs, oesophagus, larynx and pharynx.

  • Lung cancer is the most common, and 80-90% deaths due to it are attributed to tobacco, the study found. Chemicals in cigarette can also enter the bloodstream and affect multiple organs.

  • It can also cause cancer in the liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney and blood, but these are rare. Smoking also causes emphysema, damage of air sacs in lungs, which is irreversible.

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