In research described as "a stark warning" to those tempted to start smoking, scientists are reporting that cigarette smoke begins to cause genetic damage within minutes -- not years -- after inhalation into the lungs.
Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D., and colleagues point out in the report that lung cancer claims a global toll largely as a result of cigarette smoking. Smoking also is 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.
"This study is unique," writes Hecht, an internationally recognized expert on cancer-causing substances found in cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco. "It is the first to investigate human metabolism of a PAH specifically delivered by inhalation in cigarette smoke, without interference by other sources of exposure such as air pollution or the diet.