Effects of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons PAH on Smokers

According to a research study published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxology, of the American Chemical Society, in January 2011, scientists have found that cigarette smoke containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAH, causes changes in the DNA of the lungs within minutes of the inhalation of the smoke.

How Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons PAH Affect the Lungs?

  • Smoking is one of the quickest ways of dissolving a drug into the blood stream whose effects are realized within less than a second of its inhalation.
  • The habit is already known to be linked to 18 different types of cancer and is one of the major risk factors of lung cancer.
  • One of the substances found in the cigarette smoke is PAH whose role as a carcinogen is known.
  • However, the mechanism of its action on the damaging of DNA to cause cancer was not known to the researchers earlier.
  • As a part of the research, the experts tracked the action of a PAH phenanthrene in12 participants who smoked cigarettes.
  • The researchers were surprised to find that within 15-30 minutes of inhalation, the PAH started to caused destruction of the DNA leading to the mutation of the genes.
  • According to the experts, the pace of action of the PAH was as good as injecting it directly into the bloodstream.

Statistics to Stress the Significance of the Study:

  • 13.2 and 14.5 years of life are respectively lost by male and female smokers.
  • A male current smoker has 22.1 percent risk of dying before the age of 85 from lung cancer, while the percent in a female current smoker stands at 11.9.
  • 500,000 deaths per year in the United States are attributed to smoking related ailments.

Taking all these figures into consideration, the researchers appealed to the new smokers to think twice before developing the habit of smoking.


The present research on the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on the lungs was stated as unique by cancer experts as it is the first study which demonstrated the effects of PAH on the body without any influence of other factors like diet or air pollution.

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