Researchers have found that even a few puffs off of a cigarette can lead within minutes to genetic damage that has been linked to cancer. Is fact, researchers described the effect as “so fast that it's equivalent to injecting the substance directly into the bloodstream.”
The study is the first of its kind to track how substances in tobacco can damage DNA, and was published in the Chemical Research in Toxicology journal released by the American Chemical Society. Using 12 smokers who volunteered for the study, researchers tracked pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are carried in tobacco smoke and can also be found in coal-burning factories and charred grilled food.
Focusing on one particular type of PAH, called phenanthrene, researchers discovered that the chemical works its way through the blood and eventually helps form a toxic substance that is known to “trash DNA, causing mutations that can cause cancer,” researchers reported. “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,” the study found.
According to statistics, lung cancer kills about 3,000 people globally every day, and scientists estimate that at least 90 percent of those deaths can be directly attributed to smoking.