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Life is fast; so is cancer (1/18/11)

January 18, 2011

Living in the Fast Lane

Smokers can’t give up cigarettes easily.  What they may not realize is how fast cigarettes can get them – and the rest of us.

Leonard Bernstein’s West Side gang member Jets  sang “from your first cigarette to your last dying day.”  Cigarettes are less heroic these days.  They produce more than ten thousand chemicals, dozens of classes of carcinogens, and even concentrate radioactive polonium, all of which gets into the lungs of kids who just happen to live in the same apartment building (see note of 12/14/10).  Nicotine is such a powerful substance that versions of it are now globally used as pesticides, so effective at murdering insects they have been fingered in playing a role in Colony Collapse Disorder. CCD is killing off the world’s honeybees, and honeybees pollinate one third of our food crops. That’s a consideration for everybody as the world’s population rises to 7 billion and food costs skyrocket. We have to pay attention to how everything is connected to everything else if we plan to stick around.

So how fast are those chemicals in cigarettes cancerizing your body?  Fast.

Before You Inhale

Researchers at the University of Minnesota looked at polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, one of the major classes of chemicals in tobacco smoke thought to cause lung cancer.  To check their transformation inside the body they took one of the simplest of the PAHs, and infused it along into the  normally inhaled by smokers.

Next they checked how quickly the chemicals were converted by the body’s three step process into diol epoxides, a potently mutagenic form.  Gas chromatography showed the diol epoxides popping out in 15-30 minutes.

15 Minutes to Fame

That means carcinogens are made very quickly.  The researchers professed to be surprised by the result.  In fifteen minutes anybody inhaling the smoke, smokers or non-smokers, adults, children, or pets, might be on their way to new cancers.

Yet the effects of nicotine occur within seconds – just watch any smoker who’s been deprived a few hours take that next drag.  Smoked up arteries can start to spasm and limit blood flow in seconds to minutes, while the formation of chemicals that will help clog and clot arteries may take minutes to hours.  Damage to your basic organs is quick.  So is repair.

Speed and Survival

Most of what goes on in your body happens very quickly – including your regeneration.  How fast?  Proteins are in many ways the major information actors inside your cells.  Some estimates claim there are a billion protein-protein interactions in cells every second.   You’ve got ten trillion of them.

Do people appreciate the speed with which their approximately 650,00 hours get played out on this mortal earth?  No.

They don’t see their gut lining get completely replaced within a couple of days.  They don’t see their brain rewire all through the night.  They don’t see new brain cells growing while they sleep.

We generally have little consciousness of the velocity of our daily resurrection.

People don’t know the proteins pumping their blood are built, used, pulped, and recycled inside 60-90 minutes.  That when they walk across the street they’re responding to hundreds of different chemicals and viruses and bacteria, and that their responses have killed pathogens or created new carcinogens within minutes.

If people could see the film of their lives it would appear millions of times faster than the fastest video game.  But we don’t.

Under the Radar

What you see is not what you get. Just as new chemicals and carcinogens are formed in minutes, much of the body is replaced within days and weeks.  The change people notice most  is the growth of hair, but most hair is just dead protein, like skin.  The really fast stuff makes its way without your conscious awareness – under the radar.

Fortunately we can modify the results of all those changes.  Just as people try to avoid cigarette smoke, they can avoid foods that will help cause cancer.  They can avoid sedentary lifestyles that promote heart disease and limit their time on earth.

Instead they can embrace the speed, efficiency, and beauty of all that goes on inside them by recognizing the options their incredibly speedy recovery provides. The main option – you can powerfully direct your own regeneration.  Your body’s remake is changed through all your actions, and before you experience illness, is yours to control.

Take the challenge while you can.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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