The current issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology features new research from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis that suggests cigarettes begin to cause damage to a smokers DNA within minutes. A class of chemicals called PAH (polycylic aromatic hydrocarbon) are environmental pollutants that are found in oil, coal, and tar. They are released into the atmosphere by fuel burning, cooking meat at high temperatures, and are also one of the many carcinogenic and mutagenic compounds found in cigarette smoke. PAHs are known to cause damage to DNA, and for that reason are thought to be a major player in the development of lung cancer, which has been attributed to as many as 3,000 lives a day worldwide.
Until this study was conducted there wasnt much, if any information about how exactly PAHs attack our DNA. In order to find a clearer link between the two, the researchers narrowed their studies down a single PAH, and tracked it through 12 volunteers. It should be noted that this was the first study to separate delivery methods and specifically track chemicals like PAHs through the body by the method of cigarette smoke inhalation.
To the surprise of the researchers, they found that PAHs were metabolized and began to damage cells within 15-30 minutes of smoking a cigarette. While at first glance that may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, consider that this is the same speed at which PAH damages DNA if it were injected directly into the bloodstream. Keep in mind that this is only one of many chemical agents that are released by cigarette smoke, and there are many other damaging effects to be wary of. New information like this is great ammunition to use in the battle to quit smoking that so many face. The research team also hopes that it helps to deter new people from starting to smoke cigarettes.
Journal of Chemical Research in Toxicology