Beware, smoking damages your body within minutes

January 16th, 2011 - 4:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 16 (IANS) Scientists have issued a stark warning about smoking - it begins to damage your genes within mere minutes and not years after it reaches your lungs.Their report is the first study to detail the way certain substances in tobacco cause DNA damage linked to cancer, reports the journal Research in Toxicology.

University of Minnesota’s Stephen S. Hecht, professor in medicinal chemistry, who conducted the study, and his colleagues point out that smoking related lung cancer claims 3,000 lives daily worldwide.

Smoking is also 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, according to a Minnesota statement.

The scientists added a labelled PAH, phenanthrene, to cigarettes and tracked its fate in a group of volunteers who smoked.

They found that phenanthrene quickly formed a toxic substance in the blood known to trash DNA, causing mutations that can cause cancer.

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.

“The results…should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes,” he said.

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