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Mind and Body

Smoking Damages DNA Within Minutes, Study Finds

Here’s some more incentive to quit smoking.

According to a study by U.S. scientists, all it takes is a few minutes – not years – of puffing on a cigarette to cause genetic damage linked to cancer, The Daily Mail reported.

"The effect is so fast that it's equivalent to injecting the substance directly into the bloodstream," the researchers said in findings described as a "stark warning" to the millions of people who smoke out there.

The lead researcher, Dr. Stephen Hecht from the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues followed 12 volunteers and tracked certain pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a group of chemicals that are formed during the burning of coal, oil, gas, wood or other substances such as tobacco and charred meats.

Hecht zeroed-in on one pollutant in particular called phenanthrene, and found that it quickly formed a toxic substance in the blood that is 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," the study said. "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 study, which appears in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Click here to read more from the Daily Mail.