Study reveals long-lasting impacts of smoking on the immune system

The detrimental effects of tobacco smoking on the body extend far beyond the initial inhalation, altering the immune system in a manner that renders individuals susceptible to increased disease and infection risks even years after cessation, according to a recent study.

Despite a decline in smoking rates since the 1960s, it remains the primary cause of preventable deaths in the United States, claiming over 480,000 lives annually.

Traditionally, health professionals have warned smokers of the severe health consequences such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke associated with the habit. However, a study published in the journal Nature underscores another compelling reason to quit.

The study elucidates how smoking compromises the body’s ability to combat infections both acutely and chronically, potentially predisposing individuals to inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Dr. Violaine Saint-André, co-author of the study and a computational biology specialist at Institut Pasteur in Paris, emphasizes the urgency of smoking cessation, particularly among the younger population, to safeguard long-term immunity.

Examining blood samples from a diverse cohort of 1,000 healthy individuals aged 20 to 69, researchers investigated various factors influencing immune response, including lifestyle, socioeconomic status, dietary habits, age, sex, and genetics. The analysis revealed that smoking, alongside body mass index and latent herpes virus infection, exerted the most significant impact on immune function, rivaling age and sex in its influence.

Although quitting smoking led to partial restoration of immune function, full recovery took years, highlighting the importance of cessation efforts.

Furthermore, the study uncovered a dose-response relationship between smoking intensity and immune dysfunction, indicating that even reducing smoking levels confers benefits in terms of immune health.

Notably, smoking-induced changes persisted in the immune system’s adaptive response, characterized by B cells and regulatory T cells, even after cessation, underscoring the enduring epigenetic effects of smoking.

While acknowledging the study’s limitations, including its reliance on laboratory blood samples, researchers assert its significance in elucidating the long-term impact of smoking on immune function.

Dr. Yasmin Thanavala, a professor at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, applauds the study’s findings as validation of previous research demonstrating the deleterious effects of smoking on immune response.

However, she urges future studies to address participant homogeneity and explore additional factors such as genetic background and obesity’s influence on immune function.

Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer of the American Medical Association, commends the study for shedding light on the underlying mechanisms linking smoking to immune dysfunction, which may elucidate the development of conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) even in former smokers.

In summary, the study underscores the imperative of smoking cessation to mitigate the long-lasting repercussions on immune health, emphasizing the importance of public health interventions in combatting tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

Lucas Falcão

International Politics and Sports Specialist, Chief Editor of Walerts with extensive experience in breaking news.

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