Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stark Warning: Smoking Causes Genetic Damage

In research described as "a stark warning" to those tempted to start smoking, scientists are reporting that cigarette smoke begins to cause genetic damage within minutes — not years — after inhalation into the lungs.

Their report, the first human study to detail the way certain substances in tobacco cause DNA damage linked to cancer, appears in Chemical Research in Toxicology, one of 38 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.

Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D., and colleagues point out in the report that lung cancer claims a global toll of 3,000 lives each day, largely as a result of cigarette smoking. Smoking also is linked to at least 18 other types of cancer. Evidence indicates that harmful substances in tobacco smoke termed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are one of the culprits in causing lung cancer. Until now, however, scientists had not detailed the specific way in which the PAHs in cigarette smoke cause DNA damage in humans.

The scientists added a labeled PAH, phenanthrene, to cigarettes and tracked its fate in 12 volunteers who smoked the cigarettes. They found that phenanthrene quickly forms a toxic substance in the blood known to trash DNA, causing mutations that can cause cancer. The smokers developed maximum levels of the substance in a time frame that surprised even the researchers: Just 15-30 minutes after the volunteers finished smoking. Researchers said the effect is so fast that it's equivalent to injecting the substance directly into the bloodstream.

"This study is unique," writes Hecht, an internationally recognized expert on cancer-causing substances found in cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco. "It is the first to investigate human metabolism of a PAH specifically delivered by inhalation in cigarette smoke, without interference by other sources of exposure such as air pollution or the diet. The results reported here should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes," the article notes.

The authors acknowledged funding from the National Cancer Institute.

Smoking dramatically increases the risk of degenerative eye disease, including macular degeneration.  One wonders why any thinking person would start smoking given today's knowledge.



Anonymous said...

Why do we ignore Stark Warnings? And why are cigarettes still legal when smoking related disease is responsible for more needless deaths and government health care expense than all wars combined. I'm sick. sick, sick of it.

Harry said...

You are right anonymous. 3,000 smoking related deaths a day add up to over 1,000,000 deaths a year, year after year. The economic impact of cigarettes cost the tax paying public more than Obama's health care bill.

Share Parker said...

I agree anonymous...smoking is also one of the preventable risk factors for AMD. Studies have shown that current smokers and ex-smokers are more likely to develop AMD than people who have never smoked.

Jennifer Pace said...

Studies suggest that smokers with high blood sugar levels may be linked to diabetic retinopathy. The optic nerve is also susceptible to damage from smoking. People with poor diets who smoke heavily and drink excessive amounts of alcohol run the risk of developing optic nerve-related vision loss (called tobacco-alcohol amblyopia).

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

The sad truth is that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2010 statistics suggest that over 20% of the adult US population still smokes. Increasing the excise tax on cigarettes has proven to be the most beneficial in bringing down smoking prevalence.

And you are right Harry, more US citizens die every year from disease directly caused by smoking than died in wars in the past 60 years.

Is this industrial terrorism since tobacco is a powerful addiction?