Your lungs have an almost “magical” ability to repair some of the damage caused by smoking – but only if you stop, say scientists.
The mutations that lead to lung cancer had been considered to be permanent, and to persist even after quitting.
But the surprise findings, published in Nature, show the few cells that escape damage can repair the lungs.
The effect has been seen even in patients who had smoked a pack a day for 40 years before giving up.
The thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke corrupt and mutate the DNA in your lung cells – slowly transforming them from healthy to cancerous.
The study uncovered that happening on a massive scale in a smoker’s lungs even before they had cancer.
The overwhelming majority of cells taken from a smoker’s airways had been mutated by tobacco, with cells containing up to 10,000 genetic alterations.
“These can be thought of as mini time bombs, waiting for the next hit that causes them to progress to cancer,” said Dr Kate Gowers, one of the researchers at UCL.
But a small proportion of cells went unscathed.
James Gallagher – BBC News – January 29, 2020.