Quitting smoking regrows protective lung cells

Prof Sam Janes

writer

Prof Sam Janes

Professor of Respiratory Medicine, UCL

Dr Peter Campbell

writer

Dr Peter Campbell

Head of Cancer, Ageing and Somatic Mutation, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

We know that quitting smoking is an excellent way to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. But until now, experts weren’t quite sure why this was the case. Our latest research has uncovered that in people who quit smoking, the body actually replenishes the airways with normal, non-cancerous cells that help protect the lungs, in turn reducing their risk of getting cancer.

Cancer develops when a single rogue cell acquires genetic changes, called mutations, that instruct that cell to ignore all the normal constraints on its growth, causing it to rapidly replicate out of control. Throughout our lives, all of our cells acquire mutations at a steady rate – around 20-50 mutations per cell per year. Thankfully, the vast majority of these mutations are entirely harmless and don’t affect our cells in any measurable way.

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Prof Sam Janes

writer

Prof Sam Janes

Professor of Respiratory Medicine, UCL

Dr Peter Campbell

writer

Dr Peter Campbell

Head of Cancer, Ageing and Somatic Mutation, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

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