The health hazards of smoking are well-known. It damages an individual’s respiratory system by narrowing down the lung airways, collecting excess mucus in the lung passages, and by causing irritation in the larynx. However, a new study published in the August 2016 issue of the journal, ebiomedicine, states that quitting smoking can cut down the risk of developing lung cancer in half, even in high-risk smokers and also delays the onset of the disease. The study was conducted by Li-Shiun Chen, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Washington University in St. Louis, along with a team of researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine and the Siteman Cancer Center.
The researchers analyzed data collected from 15 different studies that involved more than 12,000 current and former smokers. It was found that even individuals who had variations in their DNA which made them more susceptible to cancer could manage their condition better by quitting smoking. This means that in the future doctors could conduct an analysis of the DNA of the smokers to find some effective therapies that can help them quit smoking.
Earlier studies by the same research team had found that there is a high probability that the smokers with variations in a nicotine receptor gene would continue smoking for long as compared to those without the DNA variants. Those individuals who were diagnosed with the risky gene called CHRNA5 were diagnosed with lung cancer about four years earlier than smokers without it.
“Some people believe that genes determine everything. They might think there’s no use in even trying to quit, but these findings directly contradict that myth. Although a person may be genetically vulnerable to conditions such as smoking, obesity or metabolic syndrome, the situation isn’t hopeless. Our health may be altered by certain genes, but we still can manage to make healthier choices, and if we do that, there can be big benefits,” said Chen.
Smokers with risky genetic profile respond well to nicotine-replacement therapy
The team also found that a risky genetic profile makes a smoker more likely to respond to nicotine-replacement therapy. This is because individuals with high-risk genes probably benefit from nicotine patches and other medications. Laura Jean Bierut, M.D., the alumni endowed professor of psychiatry also said that the doctors might want to identify smokers who have risky genetic variants, which simplifies matching the smokers to therapies to help them kick the habit.
“Normally, those with a risky genetic profile have difficulty quitting. They are successful only about one-third as often as those who don’t have a risky gene profile. Because we also know they are more likely to respond to certain therapies, such as nicotine patches or lozenges, we should be able to use precision medicine therapies that match individual smokers to the treatments most likely to help them,” said Bierut.
Chen and her team are continuing to study smokers to know what are the best combination of treatments for those with and without the risky DNA variants. They have recruited about 720 smokers from the St. Louis area who are trying to quit and have been randomly assigned to receive either counseling alone or counseling along with one of the two smoking-cessation therapies.
Road to recovery
The month of October is commemorated as the Healthy Lungs Month every year to understand the multiple problems that stem from pollens and mold present in the air during this time and their effect on the lungs. However, smoking also damages lungs. It is important to generate awareness about the harmful effects of smoking on an individual’s health. Taking essential steps to quitting the habit is imperative to improve the health of the lungs.
If you or someone you know is addicted to smoking or some substance, and is trying to quit or looking for a rehab center, the Florida Detox Helpline can help. Detox is the first step in the treatment of addiction. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-920-9869 or chat online to know about the best Florida detox centers.