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Smokers reach maximum levels of a cigarette pollutant in just 15-30 minutes

A researcher from the University of Minnesota has found that smoking can cause damage to genes in a matter of minutes, which could then lead to cancer.

Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Wallin Chair in Cancer Prevention, along with a team of researchers, have discovered that the first inhalation from a cigarette is enough to cause genetic damage in minutes.

Many believed it took years for cigarettes to cause any harmful effects to the body, but this study is the first to actually observe how tobacco substances relate to DNA damage when smoking. It is also different from any other smoking-related study because it strictly tracks the effects of smoking without "interference" from other harmful causes such as poor diet and pollution.

To study how a cigarette's contents impact human DNA, Hecht and his team used 12 volunteers to track PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are pollutants found in tobacco smoke. PAHs can also be located in charred barbecue food and coal-burning plants. One specific type that Hecht was particularly interested in tracking was phenanthrene, which is in cigarette smoke. 

The team observed the phenanthrene as it traveled through the blood, and watched as it destroyed DNA and caused mutations that lead to cancer. 

"The smokers developed maximum levels of the substance in a time frame that surprised even the researchers," said the study. "Just 15-30 minutes after the volunteers finished smoking. These results are significant because PAH diol epoxides react readily with DNA, induce mutations, and are considered to be ultimate carcinogens of multiple PAH in cigarette smoke."

The results are also significant because lung cancer claims the lives of 3,000 people worldwide each day, and 90 percent of these deaths are linked to smoking. With high death rates like these, it's worth researching what the effects really are. 

"The results reported here should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes," said Hecht. 

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Study taken way out of context
By dawza on 1/17/2011 12:43:35 PM , Rating: 5
There is nothing in this study that proves any mechanistic link between cigarette smoke and DNA damage, cancer, or the devil.

The very title of the study mentions that it is correlative, and it is clearly a chemistry-based analysis of a metabolite of a particular polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH- which, BTW, are a large group of compounds that for the most part are NOT known human carcinogens) that MAY have carcinogenic effects at best, and currently, seems to be nothing more than a urinary biomarker for exposure to the parent compound.

I am not saying that this isn't a solid study in and of itself, but it is a perfect example of a single finding being totally sensationalized; it starts with Yahoo news article that inaccurately presents the findings, and continues with a DT writer who clearly just rehashed said article without bothering to take a look at the primary data.

Let me say this again. I just scoured the original paper (the WHOLE paper, and not just the abstract), and there is no mention of DNA-based, or for that matter, any biological assays- this is an analytical chemistry paper published by analytical chemists in a chemistry journal. This is not a knock against chemists by any means, but let's just say that there is a very wide gap between research in analytical chemistry, in vitro biology, and clinical biology.

If you believe the reporters, somehow, this study made a magical leap of logic from pure analytical chemistry to being instantly applicable to everyone's daily lives.

RE: Study taken way out of context
By Ammohunt on 1/17/2011 2:44:55 PM , Rating: 3
I agree; and how significant is the damage of cigarette smoke as compared to say spray paint or pesticides?

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