Are you at risk from this chronic lung disease? 23



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Have you ever wondered why some people can smoke all their lives and barely get sick while others more easily fall prey to the chronic and deadly illnesses caused by cigarettes?

Around 124,000 Australians are currently living with the chronic lung disease emphysema with a further 567,000 Australians suffering chronic bronchitis, a total of 665,000 Australians with emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis, collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

COPD is the fourth largest killer of Australians and smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD.

As for why some people get sick and others don’t, well, today we know more about the link between smoking and emphysema – and it’s basically genetic.

A molecule expressed in response to smoking has been identified as a critical regulator of emphysema.

A new study published online in Nature Immunology found that smoking-induced expression of the regulatory RNA miR-22 can drive expression of inflammatory mediators that can lead to emphysema.

David Corry, Farrah Kheradmand and colleagues found that miR-22 is expressed more in the lungs of smokers than in those of non-smokers and that mice exposed to cigarette smoke or carbon black nanoparticles, which mimic soot, also increase their expression of miR-22.

Their research shows that in lung immune cells, miR-22 inhibits the expression of a specific enzyme in response to smoke.

This enzyme prevents expression of mediators that recruit T cells and other inflammatory cells to the lung, where their activation contributes to the progressive loss of lung elasticity and function associated with emphysema.

Genetically modified mice that cannot express miR-22 fail to develop disease after exposure to smoke or carbon black, revealing a link between this RNA and disease development.

The researchers conclude that selectively inhibiting miR-22 might represent a future therapy for inflammatory diseases.

While it had been known that smoking-related emphysema is driven by T cells, the underlying mechanisms that act on a molecular level were not known before these latest findings.

The risk of emphysema is only one more reason to stop smoking.


Were you a smoker? What did you find was the best way to quit?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I am not what you would call a “heavy” smoker. In fact there are many days that I do not smoke. People often ask, Why do you smoke at all; which is a very good question. My answer is simple. I enjoy the occasional cigarette. I also enjoy a beer or a wine. I started smoking around the age of 17 and back then smoking was fashionable and not frowned upon. Now at 62 I am constantly reminded of the health issues that may be caused by smoking and that to be socially accepted by all and sundry I should stop smoking. To date I have no health issues; I still work and keep myself physically and mentally active. As a smoker in modern society I am a minority and I respect the rights of people who do not smoke and therefore I smoke when and where I am not causing discomfort to non smokers or as they would have it; “putting others at risk.”
    Maybe, for one reason or another I will stop smoking. Meanwhile I will continue to light up as I always have and continue to endure the constant barrage of anti smoking advertising and studies from health professionals that preach the evils of cigarettes. To those who place anti social stigma on all smokers and who openly criticise and condemn I say, Suck it up Princess. It is my choice and if I am not annoying you or invading your rights or your space, then move on. I have rights also.

  2. I have chronic bronchitis. I have not smoked in fifteen years. My father and my last husband were very heavy smokers. Although mine is classified as mild, it is very debilitating and I have a constant battle with breathing well and making sure I don’t get chest infections. I wish more was done for these conditions as they are put on the back burner because of the stigma. Way back when I started smoking, it was not known or at least not told to us, what it did to you. My father had emphysema. I do everything to keep this not getting worse as I have so much left to do with my life, but people don’t seem to understand how bad it can be and don’t seem to care. It doesn’t get the same publicity as cancer for instance and it is the fourth biggest killer in this country, as you said. It is like we are being punished for smoking. My doctor always told me he couldn’t prove it was my smoking that did it, but he believed if someone in your family had it, you were more likely to. I had given up smoking ten years before I had any problems and was diagnosed with it.

  3. I use to smoke & i have bronchitis but not to bad i control it,, i was told by the doctor at the time that heart &lung disease happens with smoking & the fibers in the filters do all sorts off damage in the end when it is to late,,,,,, ……..

  4. Giving up smoking is not easy. Tried several times and because craving was still strong after about 2 weeks, I succumbed every time. Then someone told me if I could hang in there for 3 months my craving would pass. Went cold turkey and when it got tough ate sweeties. My doctor said the little bit of weight I put on was not as dangerous as smoking. I avoided triggers like coffee, wine etc and now after 22 years I feel great. I do have a mild case of COPD but it doesn’t bother me.

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  5. I smoked for 30 yrs lived with COPD for 10yrs was on oxygen for 8yrs …Had double lung transplant 2 yrs ago ….plzzz give uo smoking if you can COPD IS Horrible not much they can do for you

  6. Strokes, emphysema, dementia, all originating from a lifetime of smoking contributed to my wife’s death. It wasn’t pretty watching the deterioration and her struggle for every breath. Please, to any of you still smoking, do everything you possibly can to give it up. Smoking may not kill you, as the article says, but if it does it is not a good way to go.

  7. I watched my brother in law died a long slow death from Emphysema. He smoked until he no longer had the breath to inhale. Now his wife of 37 years is dying the same death and she never smoked. But I suspect that the second hand smoke she breathed in for 37 years did her no good. It is a horrible way to die. You literally drown.

  8. Had a friend who had this horrid disease. He could not walk up a flight of stairs. Had to have a break half way up. So sad.

  9. 20 years ago I had a really bad cold and didn’t smoke for about 10 days. When I felt better I decided that then was a good time to try, yet again, to quit. I went cold turkey and it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I thought I was losing my mind. My regular breakfast was a cup of tea and a cigarette. That cup of tea was the first thing to go. Now, 20 years later, I still don’t have a cuppa first thing in the morning! It was such a traumatic time that I know I’ll never regress. I couldn’t go through it again. However, other people smoking doesn’t bother me and never makes me feel like joining them. Thanks to the money I’ve saved I’ve been able to do holidays that I could only dream about years ago. You can do it but it has to be YOU who wants to.

  10. Yes I haven’t smoked in nearly 10 yrs but the damage was done COPD is shocking and the stigma you get from people is it’s your own fault we know that. But when you are fighting to get your breath it doesn’t help nothing does but I am still plodding along All I can say is STUPID WOMAN I AM

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  11. My son in law went cold turkey when giving up smoking, he never smoked in the house, so when he quite he decided to put the money in a separate account and when he had enough money he took my daughter and grandson to the UK where he hired a car and drove throughout England Scotland and Wales, his mother was a heavy smoker she now has lung cancer and has to have oxygen

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