A new study published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics concluded that smoking alters several genes that can be associated with health problems such as increased risk of cancer and diabetes. Although we inherit our genes from our parents, the genetic material can later be changed by epigenetic modification such as chemical alterations of the DNA that affect the activity of the genes. These alterations are normally caused by aging but can also be a result of environmental factors and lifestyle.
Researchers identified a large number of genes that were altered in smokers but found no such effect in non-smokers. The researchers said, “This means the epigenetic modifications are likely not caused by substances in the tobacco, but by the hundreds of different elements that are formed when the tobacco is burnt … Our results therefore indicate that the increased disease risk associated with smoking is partly a caused by epigenetic changes.”