A new study has warned that vaping damages people's DNA in the same way that smoking regular cigarettes does, but to a lesser extent. These cellular alterations have the potential to induce a variety of illnesses, including cancer.

Adult smokers have been touting e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes since they first entered the market. When studies began to suggest otherwise, many people wondered if smoking was still to blame for the negative effects, given that the majority of vapers are either "dual users" who also smoke cigarettes or have a smoking history.

Now, a team of researchers at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine has shown that using e-cigarettes is associated with negative biological alterations that can lead to disease, regardless of the consequences of prior smoking.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that vapers had a similar pattern of gene regulatory modifications as smokers, while the changes are more extensive in smokers.

The researchers gathered a diverse group of 82 healthy adults and divided them into three groups: current vapers with and without a smoking history; those who only smoke cigarettes; and a control group of never-smokers and never-vapers.

Researchers then used next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic data analysis to conduct a genome-wide search for changes in gene regulation in each of the participants' blood cells. When genes' normal regulation is interrupted, genes become dysregulated, which can interfere with gene function and lead to disease.

They used computational modeling to see if the discovered gene dysregulation was linked to the intensity and duration of current vaping or the intensity and duration of previous smoking in current vapers

"We found that more than 80% of gene dysregulation in vapers correlated with the intensity and duration of current vaping," Ahmad Besaratinia, corresponding author and professor of research population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, said. "Whereas none of the detected gene dysregulation in vapers correlated to their prior smoking intensity or duration."

Besaratinia and his colleagues previously demonstrated that e-cigarette users have some of the same cancer-related biochemical alterations in oral tissue as cigarette smokers. They also discovered that vapers' genomes have the same cancer-related chemical alterations as smokers'.

In this study, scientists discovered that mitochondrial genes are favored targets of gene dysregulation in both vapers and smokers. They also discovered that vapers and smokers had considerable immune response gene dysregulation.

The team's next step will be to identify and examine compounds found in both e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke to see which ones may be generating similar negative effects in both vapers and smokers.