Smoking leaves an "archaeological record" of the hundreds of DNA1 mutations it causes, scientists have discovered.
Having sequenced thousands of tumour2 genomes, they found a 20-a-day smoker3 would rack up an average of 150 mutations in every lung cell each year.
The changes are permanent, and persist even if someone gives up smoking.
The study, in the journal Science, was carried out by an international group, including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
The analysis shows a direct link between the number of cigarettes smoked in a lifetime and the number of mutations in tumour DNA.
The authors found that, on average, smoking a packet of cigarettes a day led to:
150 mutations in each lung cell every year
97 in the larynx or voice box
23 in the mouth
18 in the bladder
six in the liver
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