Giving up smoking can spark growth of healthy cells and reverse some of the damage from nicotine, new study shows
- Cells can even replenish in a 70-year-old who has smoked 10,000 packets
- Cancer Research UK said: ‘This shift could help protect against cancer’
- Cells can rise from a smoker’s 4-10% level to between 20 and 40 in non smokers
Quitting smoking not only prevents further damage to cells in your lungs, but it can help replenish healthy cells that weren’t destroyed beforehand, a new study suggests.
Cells can even replenish in a 70-year-old who has smoked 10,000 packets of cigarettes in their life, researchers found.
The study, by Nature, found that cells killed by years of smoking can be replaced by the regrowth and multiplication of new ones, even helping in the battle against cancer.
Cancer Research UK said: ‘The study shows that quitting smoking could do much more than just stopping further damage to the lungs.
Quitting smoking not only prevents further damage to cells in your lungs, but it can help replenish healthy cells that weren’t destroyed beforehand
‘Researchers believe it could also allow new, healthy cells to actively replenish the lining of our airways. This shift could help protect against cancer.’
The cells of a person who has never smoked will be at a normal or near-normal health level but this falls to between four and 10 percent for those who like a puff.
But the new study found that this can rise back up to between 20 and 40 per cent for someone who has kicked the habit.
Those behind the study, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Essex and University College London Hospital, say that the benefits of stopping ‘begin immediately, accrue with time and are evident even after quitting late in life’.
‘Stopping smoking, at any age, does not just slow the accumulation of further damage, but can reawaken cells unscathed by past lifestyle choices.’
Researchers inspected samples of tissue from 16 people that included smokers, ex-smokers and people who had never smoked.
They then sequenced the DNA from 632 cells and came out with the findings that ‘surprised’ them.
They found that up to 96 per cent of cells in a smoker’s lungs had genetic mutations not present in non-smokers.
And 25 per cent of these cells had at least one mutation linked to cancer.
Those who’d given up smoking had four times more healthy cells in their airways than people who still smoked.
These cells were also just as healthy as those in people who had never started.
Peter Campbell, of the Sanger Institute, said: ‘These patients showed just as much of the replenishment of normal cells as people who quit earlier.’