Smoking and the Y chromosome do NOT go hand in hand, as demonstrated by researchers of a new study. Humans have 46 chromosomes in their cells, with two of these belonging to the category “sex chromosomes”. Females have two X sex chromosomes, while men have a Y and an X. The Y chromosome is thus specific to males. One of the authors stated that this might “explain why men in general have a shorter life span than women, and why smoking is more dangerous for men”.
Smoking is one of the major risk factors for cancer. On top of this, men seem to be predisposed to developing cancer from smoking, as opposed to their female counterparts; they are more likely to have cancerous growths in tissues other than those of the respiratory tract. The new study correlates smoking and genetic damage, and is thus considered to be promising to shedding light on the reason why men appear to be more vulnerable.
“We have previously in 2014 demonstrated an association between loss of the Y chromosome in blood and greater risk for cancer. We now tested if there were any lifestyle or clinical factors that could be linked to loss of the Y chromosome”, said Lars Forsberg, one of the researchers.
The chromosomes consist of genes that code for the body’s proteins. Some health conditions are the result of modifications in certain genes contained in the chromosomes. For instance, the result of a study done in the past indicated that the Y chromosome plays a role in tumour suppression; this could explain why men have cancer more often than women. The new study put into perspective other possible factors that could be associated with the Y chromosome, and the loss of it. the scientists thus found a correlation between smoking and the loss of chromosome in terms of smoking dose. Heavy smokers among the participants had more risk of losing the Y chromosome than those who smoked moderately.
Furthermore, it was found that men having given up smoking had the same level of Y chromosome as those who had never smoked.
“These results indicate that smoking can cause loss of the Y chromosome and that this process might be reversible. We found that the frequency of cells with loss of the Y chromosome was not different among ex-smokers compared to men who had never smoked.”