Oct 20, 2018 | Updated: 04:34 PM EDT

Smoking Linked To Loss Of Y Chromosome Amongst Men, Leading To Shorter Life Span

Dec 09, 2014 09:07 PM EST


Ever wondered why men who smoke have a shorter life spans compared to female smokers? A recent study may have provided the answer for this query as it revealed an association between smoking and loss of the Y chromosome in male smokers. According to the Uppsala University (in Sweden) research which was published in the journal Science, male smokers were three times more likely to lose their Y chromosomes, compared with non-smoking men.

Such chromosome loss increases the risk of developing various types of cancer and early death among men. It is also a known fact that tobacco smoking is known to be a major risk factor for a range of other serious illnesses. It is the world's leading preventable cause of premature death from chronic conditions such as heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure.

Lead researcher Prof. Jan Dumanski of Uppsala University in Sweden explained, "There is a correlation between a common and avoidable risk factor, that is smoking, and the most common human mutation which is loss of the Y chromosome. Only men have the Y chromosome which may in part explain why men in general have a shorter life span than women, and why smoking is more dangerous for men."

In the new study, the discovery of a potential link between smoking and genetic damage that only affects men could account for this difference.

The researchers looked at data on more than 6,000 men, taking into account their ages, exercise habits, cholesterol levels, education status, alcohol intake and many other health and behavioral factors.

Lars Forsberg, researcher at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University and also part of the group, said this suggested Y chromosome loss due to smoking might be reversible. The association was said to only apply to men who were current smokers. Men who already quit smoking showed the same frequency of cells with loss of the Y chromosome, as men who had never smoked. This discovery could be very persuasive for motivating smokers to quit.

However, according to reports, the scientists were not sure how loss of Y chromosomes in blood cells is linked with the development of cancer, although a possibility is that immune cells in blood that have lost their Y chromosome have a reduced capacity to fight cancer cells.

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