Researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have mapped DNA damage caused by smoking, a finding that could help scientists better understand how smoking-induced cancers originate, and how they can be prevented.

According to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team has succeeded in developing a useful technique for mapping sites on the genome that are undergoing repair due to damage caused by benzo[α]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE). This particular carcinogen is a byproduct of burning organic material, such as smoking tobacco. The team believe that better understanding the exact damage caused by BPDE will help scientists better understand how smoking-related cancers begin, why some people are more vulnerable or resistant to certain cancers, and how these cancers can be prevented.

“This is a carcinogen that accounts for about 30 percent of the cancer deaths in the United States, and we now have a genome-wide map of the damage it causes,” said study researcher and Nobel laureate Dr. Aziz Sancar in a recent statement. “It would be good if this helps raise awareness of how harmful smoking can be. It also would be helpful to drug developers if we knew exactly how DNA damage is repaired throughout the entire genome.”

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