Acetaldehyde in Cigarette Smoke Leads to Lung Cancer
It’s common knowledge that smoking cigarettes causes a multitude of health problems. What you may not know is that people who have ALDH2 Deficiency face an additional health risk when they smoke cigarettes.
Acetaldehyde is a carcinogenic compound found in alcohol, many types of air pollution, certain types of foods, and drinks like coffee and tea. According to the EPA, acetaldehyde is listed in the top 30 air pollutants that pose the greatest potential health threat in urban areas. It is also the number one toxin in cigarette smoke. Acetaldehyde is produced when the tobacco leaves and added sweeteners in the cigarette are burned. The same process occurs when smoking marijuana. According to the World Health Organization, it has also been proven that in conjunction with nicotine, acetaldehyde even enhances the addictiveness of smoking cigarettes!
Your body has ALDH2 enzymes that break down acetaldehyde when it starts building up in your system. This is crucial because too much acetaldehyde can lead to grave health problems. Unfortunately, about 40% of East Asians have a genetic mutation called ALDH2 Deficiency. This means that when people with the deficiency consume or are exposed to acetaldehyde, it builds up in their body and they don’t have enough ALDH2 enzyme activity to break it down efficiently. This results in dangerously high levels of acetaldehyde accumulating in their body.
Studies show that when people breath in high levels of acetaldehyde, the immediate effects they experience are eye, skin and respiratory tract irritations. The long term effects are more serious. Studies on rats who were exposed to high levels of acetaldehyde in the air they inhaled have shown increased occurrence of tumors in their nasal and throat passages. When you smoke cigarettes, acetaldehyde in the smoke dissolves in your saliva and is spread throughout your upper respiratory tract and your digestive system. This is associated with an increased risk of developing mouth, throat, lung and stomach cancers.
Acetaldehyde is toxic, and everyone should be concerned about their exposure to it. However, for people with ALDH2 Deficiency the stakes are higher. Because they are unable to break down acetaldehyde as efficiently as people without the deficiency, they are at a much higher risk of developing the health problems caused by acetaldehyde. Additionally, acetaldehyde increases the addictiveness to cigarettes. Therefore, not only are people with ALDH2 Deficiency more likely to experience the adverse health effects that come with smoking, but they are also more likely to be addicted to cigarettes. This is a deadly combination, people who have ALDH2 Deficiency should be cautious of how much they are exposing themselves to acetaldehyde.
In China, where cigarette smoking is prevalent and air pollution high, rates of lung cancer are at all time highs. According to Time Magazine, China will have an estimated 700,000 annual deaths from lung cancer by 2020. From Time Magazine:
“The problem has been mounting in recent years as the country's air pollution goes largely unmitigated. China remains the world's largest consumer of tobacco products — a study earlier this year estimated that 1 in3 of all young Chinese men will die of tobacco-related illnesses — though experts say pollution will replace smoking as the primary cause of lung cancer.”
On top of the air pollution and smoking, up to 45% of China’s population is estimated to have ALDH2 Deficiency.
By reducing the amount of acetaldehyde buildup in your body, you can decrease your risk of developing these health implications. Those with ALDH2 Deficiency should be particularly careful about avoiding acetaldehyde whenever possible. The most effective way to reduce acetaldehyde is to minimize smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. People with ALDH2 Deficiency should also try to avoid air pollution and sugary foods and beverages. Additionally, taking a daily vitamin supplement that reduces acetaldehyde, like Essential AD2, can be beneficial. Essential AD2 boosts the activity of the ALDH2 enzyme. This increased activity helps your body break down acetaldehyde more efficiently. A combination of all these measures will give your body the best chance at defending itself against acetaldehyde. To learn more about Essential AD2 and how it works, visit here.
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World Health Organization. 2014. Tobacco Free Initiative: Fact sheet on ingredients in tobacco products.
Syrjänen, K et. al. Anticancer Research vol. 36 no. 5 2297-2306. 2016. Elimination of Cigarette Smoke-derived Acetaldehyde in Saliva by Slow-release L-Cysteine Lozenge Is a Potential New Method to Assist Smoking Cessation. A Randomised, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Intervention.
Salaspuro, M. 2007. Interrelationship between alcohol, smoking, acetaldehyde and cancer.
Seeman, et. al. 2002. Acetaldehyde in mainstream tobacco smoke: formation and occurrence in smoke and bioavailability in the smoker. Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Time Magazine. China to have over 800,000 lung cancer patients a year by 2020, state media says. Nov. 30th, 2015.