Study: Vaping damages DNA and causes cancer risk like cigarettes
Vaping damages DNA and raises risk of cancer the same way as cigarettes, study claims — but it’s not as bad as traditional smoking
- University of Southern California researchers studied 82 adults in Los Angeles
- They differentiated vapers who had previously or never smoked for the first time
- Found vapers had significant levels of damaged genes, increasing risk of cancer
Vaping damages people’s DNA in the same way as smoking normal cigarettes — but to a lesser degree — a study warned today.
These biological changes can cause diseases such as cancer, according to the University of Southern California study.
Vaping has been viewed as a safer alternative to smoking, with the UK mulling plans to prescribe e-cigarettes to cigarette users to help them quit.
There have been several studies that suggests e-cigarettes are harmful, but many questioned whether smoking was still to blame since most vapers also smoke traditional cigarettes or have a prior history of smoking.
But a team of researchers at the University of Southern California found that these biological changes happen even in vapers who’ve never touched a cigarette.
However, the changes are much more extensive in people who smoke tobacco products, the scientists said.
Laws restricting what manufacturers are allowed to put in vapes are stricter in the UK than the US, so the American study may not entirely reflect effects of E-cigarettes available on the British market.
The study looked at 82 healthy adults split them into three categories — current vapers, people who only smoke cigarettes and a control group who had never smoked or vaped.
They then analysed the genes of all paricipants and looked for changes in gene regulation in the blood cells of each participant.
When the normal regulation of genes is disrupted it can interfere to gene function, leading to disease.
Vaping damages DNA causing a risk of cancer in the same way as smoking cigarettes, a study by the University of Southern California claimed today [stock photo]
The research studied 37 current vapers, 22 current smokers and 23 non-smokers in Los Angeles. Vapers who currently smoke were excluded from the results.
They took blood samples from the participants to determine how many corrupted genes were in the various groups.
After accounting for age and sex, they found a ‘statistically significant’ association of damaged genes in vapers — even if they had never smoked.
Dr Ahmad Besaratinia, lead author and professor of research population and public health sciences, said: ‘Our study, for the first time, investigates the biological effects of vaping in adult e-cigarette users, while simultaneously accounting for their past smoking exposure.
‘Our data indicate that vaping, much like smoking, is associated with dysregulation of mitochondrial genes and disruption of molecular pathways involved in immunity and the inflammatory response, which govern health versus disease state.’
E-cigarette users may be more likely to suffer a stroke in middle-age than traditional smokers, research suggests.
Academics in New York — who tracked almost 80,000 Americans — found smokers were up to six times more likely to suffer a stroke than vapers.
But vapers faced roughly a 15 per cent higher risk of being struck down at an earlier age, compared to smokers.
E-cigarette users suffered their first stroke aged 48, on average — a decade earlier than traditional cigarette smokers.
While vaping is generally accepted as healthier than cigarettes, researchers warned exposure to the devices at a young age can still do irreparable damage.
Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of suffering strokes as well as other conditions including cancer and heart disease.
The study found 12 per cent of affected genes in vapers were in the mitochondria — the parts of cells that scientists say can help keep the immune system working effectively and prevent cancer and other diseases developing.
The number of damaged genes in smokers was around 7.4 times higher than in vapers, researchers said.
Mitochondria — the ‘engine’ of cells that produces energy — also play a vital role in regulating the body’s immune system.
When the genes mitochondria become damaged, the body is more prone to developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Dr Besaratinia said: ‘When mitochondria become dysfunctional, they release key molecules.
‘The released molecules can function as signals for the immune system, triggering an immune response that leads to inflammation, which is not only important for maintaining health but also plays a critical role in the development of various diseases, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases, and cancer.’
Last month it was announced England is set to become the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes to help smokers quit.
Despite a torrent of evidence on the health risks of vaping, the medical regulator is to ‘pave the way’ for it to be offered on the NHS.
Manufacturers will be able to submit e-cigarettes to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to undergo the same ‘approvals process’ as other medicines.
This means they could then be licensed as a medical product and prescribed by doctors on a case-by-case basis to people who want to quit traditional cigarettes.
Currently, the NHS advises that vaping can help smokers – though it is not available on prescription.
E-cig devices typically cost around £20 to £30, plus more for replacement cartridges.
The controversial move comes despite the World Health Organisation saying last year that the devices are ‘undoubtedly harmful’.
Some 3million Britons use vapes at present, more than triple the 700,000 nearly a decade ago.
For comparison, there are currently 7million smokers in the UK, down more than half on a decade ago.
The researchers said results may have been affected by the higher number of vapers than smokers studied — 37 and 22 respectively.
But they said regulators should take note of the findings, especially with the number of vapers increasing all the time.
Dr Besaratinia said: ‘Given the popularity of e-cigarettes among young never-smokers, our findings will be of importance to the regulatory agencies.
‘To protect public health, these agencies are in urgent need of scientific evidence to inform the regulation of the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of e-cigarettes.’
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