“Smoker’s Face,” a condition where smokers look older than they are, is just one of many negative effects caused by heavy tobacco usage. Louise Millard of the University of Bristol and colleagues report these findings in a new study published recently in PLOS Genetics.
Some people carry one or two copies of a genetic variant that is associated with heavier tobacco use. To identify effects of the heavier smoking, scientists can separate out the effects of the genetic variant via tobacco use from other possible effects associated with carrying that variant that are unrelated to tobacco use.
To simultaneously identify these two types of effects, the researchers used a novel combination of two data analysis approaches and applied them using data from people in the UK Biobank. They separated people into two groups. The first contained people who had never smoked, and the second included current and former smokers.
The researchers reasoned that the smoking group would reveal the effects of tobacco exposure, while the never-smokers would show them any unrelated effects of the genetic variant.