Appraising the causal role of smoking in multiple diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of Mendelian randomization studies

EBioMedicine. 2022 Aug:82:104154. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2022.104154. Epub 2022 Jul 8.


Background: The causal association between cigarette smoking and several diseases remains equivocal. The purpose of this study was to appraise the causal role of smoking in a wide range of diseases by summarizing the evidence from Mendelian randomization (MR) studies.

Methods: MR studies on genetic liability to smoking initiation or lifetime smoking (composite of smoking initiation, heaviness, duration, and cessation) in relation to circulatory system, digestive system, nervous system, musculoskeletal system, endocrine, metabolic, and eye diseases, and neoplasms published until February 15, 2022, were identified in PubMed. De novo MR analyses were performed using summary statistics data from genome-wide association studies. Meta-analysis was applied to combine study-specific estimates.

Findings: Meta-analyses of findings of 29 published MR studies and 123 de novo MR analyses of 57 distinct primary outcomes showed that genetic liability to smoking (smoking initiation or lifetime smoking) was associated with increased risk of 13 circulatory system diseases, several digestive system diseases (including diverticular, gallstone, gastroesophageal reflux, and Crohn's disease, acute pancreatitis, and periodontitis), epilepsy, certain musculoskeletal system diseases (including fracture, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis), endocrine (polycystic ovary syndrome), metabolic (type 2 diabetes) and eye diseases (including age-related macular degeneration and senile cataract) as well as cancers of the lung, head and neck, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, kidney, cervix, and ovaries, and myeloid leukemia. Smoking liability was associated with decreased risk of Parkinson's disease and prostate cancer.

Interpretation: This study found robust evidence that cigarette smoking causes a wide range of diseases.

Funding: This work was supported by research grants from the Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden), the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation (Hjärt-Lungfonden, 20210351), the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte, 2018-00123), and the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet, 2019-00977). Stephen Burgess is supported by Sir Henry Dale Fellowship jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society (204623/Z/16/Z) and the National Institute for Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (BRC-1215-20014). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Keywords: Cancer; Cardiovascular disease; Chronic diseases; Lifestyle factors; Mendelian randomization; Smoking.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Pancreatitis*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Smoking / adverse effects