RESEARCH carried out in memory of Scholes-born entertainer Roy Castle has emphasised the link between tobacco and lung cancer.
An international study - funded partly by the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation - has found exposure to tobacco smoke increases the chance of cell damage, leading to cancer.
Scientists found that chemicals, including tobacco smoke, damaged parts of the DNA within tissue cells.
The cells can either self-destruct or go on to cause cancer.
Professor John Field, director of the Foundation set up in memory of Roy Castle who died after developing lung cancer through passive smoking, said: "We have identified one of the major mechanisms involved in the development of cancer.
"This has enormous implications in the understanding of this devastating disease.
"The findings are a significant contribution to research into methods of early detection and hence more successful treatments."
The study into lung cancer - the biggest cancer killer in the UK - also showed how cells changed much earlier than previously thought.
It also identified how early cancer lesions caused by pre-cancerous damage to cells were virtually impossible to spot using current detection methods.
Mike Unger, chief executive of the Foundation, added: "Clearly this research is a very important step in the process of studying cancer development and finding better earlier methods of detection.
"It also shows that more people could be saved from cancer deaths, particularly lung cancer, if more backing was available for further research into the early detection of this devastating disease."