Researchers from the Ontario Cancer Institute in Canada have discovered additional dangers of smoking, linked not only to an increased risk of cancer, but also to a weakening of the body’s ability to fight the disease. Published in the journal Science Advances, the findings indicate that tobacco smoke causes harmful mutations in DNA that can interrupt the production of tumor-fighting proteins.
By analyzing the DNA of more than 12,000 tumor samples spanning 18 different types of cancer, researchers discovered the unique fingerprint that smoking leaves on DNA, particularly noticeable in lung cancer. These imprints—growth arrest mutations—effectively turn off the production of proteins that act as brakes on tumor development.
“Smoking causes certain changes in DNA that interfere with the functioning of molecules that prevent cancer from growing,” says Nina Adler, one of the study’s authors.
The results also suggest that bad habits, such as poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption, can damage DNA, creating barriers to effective cancer treatment. These findings highlight the importance of a healthy lifestyle both in preventing cancer and in improving the effectiveness of therapy in patients already diagnosed with the disease.