Smokers without lung disease may still have cell damage: study

New York – Smoking may cause airway cell damage before health tests indicate anything is wrong, according to a new study from Weill Cornell Medical College.

Researchers compared airway cells of 21 healthy non-smokers and 31 smokers with no symptoms of lung disease. Despite being otherwise healthy, smokers were found to have cell abnormalities similar to what is seen with lung cancer, the study abstract states.

“When you smoke a cigarette, some of the genetic programming of your lung cells is lost,” senior investigator Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill, said in a press release. “Your cells take on the appearance of a more primitive cell. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop cancer, but that the soil is fertile to develop cancer.”

The study was published online July 16 in the journal Stem Cell.