Oncology Times

Skip Navigation LinksHome > Blogs > FRESH SCIENCE for Clinicians > Sperm Damage: One More Reason Not to Smoke
FRESH SCIENCE for Clinicians
News about basic science of interest and relevance for cancer clinicians
Friday, July 29, 2011
Sperm Damage: One More Reason Not to Smoke

The US Food and Drug Administration recently unveiled disturbing images that will don the front of cigarette packs in September 2012 and beyond. Public health experts hope the new labels will deter smokers, and there is evidence from other countries that some would-be smokers will be repulsed.


However, if images of smoke spewing out of a tracheotomy or grossly diseased lungs aren’t enough, maybe images of crippled, slow-swimming sperm would work.


Sperm from mice exposed to either direct smoke or side-stream smoke (the main component of secondhand smoke) contained more mutations than sperm from control animals did, researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California reported online recently in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.


Scientists already knew that men who smoke have a higher rate of germ cell mutations. But these data suggest that exposure to someone else’s smoke has the same effect, although the mutation rate is somewhat lower. (The rate of mutations to both direct smoke and side-stream smoke is dose-dependent, though so a lot of secondhand smoke could add up relatively quickly.)


I’m sure the FDA isn’t short on gruesome images – Brazil, which has used this approach since 2002, doesn’t seem to be – but if for some reason, the agency does need more, a dish of damaged sperm might just work.

About the Author

Rabiya S. Tuma, PhD
RABIYA S. TUMA, PHD, a Contributing Writer for Oncology Times, is an award winning journalist and a regular contributor to The Economist, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including CR Magazine, Yoga + Joyful Living, O The Oprah Magazine, HHMI Bulletin, and the New York Times. Prior to launching her writing career, Rabiya earned her doctorate at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and worked at a biotechnology firm in Eugene, Oregon. And though she traded a lab bench for a computer, she remains fascinated with the work that takes basic science into the clinic.

Her OT blog was recognized this year by the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (ASHPE) with a bronze award in the category of Best Blog.