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HHS HealthBeat (November 21, 2013)

Smokers’ sick cells

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Even a smoker who looks healthy – and whose doctor might even find no sign of health damage from smoking – might already be sick. Researcher Ronald Crystal of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City saw it when he compared airway cells from nonsmokers and from smokers who had no sign of lung disease, based on standard clinical tests.

Crystal says some hypothetical man smoking outside a building might think he’s OK, but he’s not:

“When you look at the cells lining his airways, the biology of those cells are markedly different, and they are clearly abnormal.”

Crystal says quitting can let lungs heal from smoke damage, but some cells never fully recover – so it’s best never to start.

The study in the journal Stem Cell was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: November 21, 2013