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.