A recent study shows that the Y chromosome may be affected by smoking. Men may find that they suffer a reduction. It could suggest why men are at more risk of suffering from illnesses related to the habit compared to woman.
The report was published in Science on Thursday, and is the work of multiple researchers. All of the authors are from Sweden’s Uppsala University, and they took samples from more than 6,000 men. Those who smoked regularly were found to have a lower number of Y chromosomes in their blood cells compared to those who did not smoke. There was also a smaller number compared to those who no longer smoked and those who were classed as moderate smokers.
Researchers believe that the lower number of important chromosomes is why men are more likely to suffer smoking-related cancers compared to women. This is especially the case for those that affect areas not include the respiratory system. Epidemiological data already suggests that male smokers are at a greater risk of cancers already. Now researchers have simply found a reason.
There were other factors taken into account, as well as smoking. Some of these factors included alcohol intake, diabetes, age and blood pressure. However, only a small number of those with other issues were found to have few Y chromosomes.
While the study shows that smoking may affect Y chromosomes negatively, there is some good news. It seems that the effect may be reversible. Those who had quit the habit had similar counts to those who had never smoked. It also seems that those who smoke more are the ones most likely to be affected with the loss.
Lars Forsberg, the head researcher for the study, believes that the findings should act as new motivators for smokers to give up the habit. There are many other reasons to quit, but the idea that the effects are reversible may help persuade men.
The loss of the Y chromosome is not something that should be taken lightly. It not only means that men are more at risk of cancers, but also reduces the life span. Older men are more at risk of losing their Y chromosomes, but all smokers were affected in some way.
Results from the study have helped to change the idea of the chromosome, too. Before, the Y was seen as inferior to the X. It is shorter and more stumpy, and one that women do not have. Many scientists believed that it really just ensured good sperm production and affected the gender of a baby. However, researchers now believe that it is much more important.
Dr. Martin Bialer, a New York medical geneticist not involved in the study, has looked into the results to help with understanding the chromosome. He believes that it is important, and does more than just determine the sex of a child. The research shows that there are genes within there; genes that are not fully understood but may help suppress tumors. It could mean major health problems if smoking effects the Y chromosome so negatively.
By Alexandria Ingham