Study sheds light on why 'healthy smokers' exist

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Why Do Some Smokers Appear Healthier Than Others?


The dangers of smoking cigarettes are well-documented, but why some people can smoke and stay healthy has remained somewhat of a medical mystery.

A study out of the United Kingdom involving 50,000 participants appears to suggest it's primarily because of genetics.

The study, funded by the Medical Research Council, found that many people who were able to ward off chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, had a genetic mutation that strengthens the lungs and lessens the effects of smoking.

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Study sheds light on why 'healthy smokers' exist
Sarah Jessica Parker and Mikhail Baryshnikov during Sarah Jessica Parker on the Set of Sex and the City in Paris, France - January 16, 2004 at Paris in Paris, France, France. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
NEW YORK - JULY 6: Actress Katherine Heigl on set of '27 Dresses' in New ork City's Meat Packing District on July 6, 2007. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Singer Katy Perry shops in Darlinghurst ahead of her sold-out Australian tour on October 8, 2008 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by PhotoNews International Inc./FilmMagic)
PORTOFINO, ITALY - JULY 28: Rihanna is seen smoking a cigarette on a boat on July 28, 2012 in Portofino, Italy. (Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 3: Leonardo DiCaprio smokes an electronic cigarette while watching Djokovic against Murray on Day 10 of the 2014 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/GC Images)
Kate Hudson during Bonnaroo 2005 - Day 2 - Seen Around Tent at Centeroo in Manchester, Tennessee, United States. (Photo by Marc Andrew Deley/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Robin Thicke arrives at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). on September 25, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
276749 16: Gwyneth Paltrow stands at the premiere of 'Emma' July 22, 1996 in New York City. This adaptation of Jane Austen's novel won an Academy Award for best comedy score. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Liaison)
NOW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 10: Brad Pitt is seen on the movie set of 'Killing Them Softly' on March 10, 2011 in Now Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LONDON - FEBRUARY 11: Adele sighting on February 11, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 23: Lindsay Lohan visits Play Showroom on March 23, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: Miley Cyrus smokes on September 02, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by GONZALO/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Mary-Kate Olsen (Photo by Lorenzo Santini/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 07: Elijah Wood is seen on movie set of 'Wilfred' on May 07, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by GONZALO/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 28: American Idol Judge Simon Cowell poses with fans at the American Idol music phone launch held at Sam Goody Universal City Walk April 28, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 28: Singer Alecia Moore (aka Pink) is seen at North Bondi Italian restaurant with friends on June 28, 2009 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by PhotoNews International Inc./FilmMagic)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 17: Amber Rose sighting during London Fashion Week on September 17, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic)
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"There doesn't appear to be any kind of magic bullet that would give anyone guaranteed protection against tobacco smoke — they would still have lungs that were unhealthier than they would be had they been a non-smoker," one of the researchers from the University of Leicester told the BBC.

COPD is a deadly disease, with 3 million deaths reported worldwide in 2012, according to the World Health Organization. Symptoms include breathlessness, chronic bronchitis and severe coughing. There is no cure.

While this new research could possibly be a stepping stone to finding a cure for COPD, the researchers hope it will also lead to understanding how to treat the disease and prevent people from smoking in the first place.

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