The latest research, published in the Trends in Molecular Medicine, concludes that avoiding contact with any environmental toxins can help you attain a youthful appearance. As the exposure to carcinogens can put a person at an increased risk of cancer, the exposure to environmental toxins, also referred to as gerontogens, may trigger accelerated aging. Toxins present in the ultraviolet rays, chemotherapy, and cigarette smoke are capable of increasing the rate of aging.

According to the director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Norman Sharpless, “Thirty percent of aging in any individual is caused because of genes and the rest seventy percent is blamed on the environmental toxins.”

What Is Aging?

A chemical process occurring in the body, known as senescence, is responsible for aging. It damages the healthy cells and makes them incapable of dividing. In the long run, such damaged cells accumulate in the body and eat away the healthy resources as well as produce hormones that cause further inflammation. According to Sharpless, “People with a few of such harmful cells are not at risk of aging. However, buildup of these in a long run causes premature aging and produces diseases that are linked to aging.

How The Study Was Conducted

Sharpless and his colleagues created an easy test to identify the toxins that should be avoided in order to reduce the rate of aging. They created a system where mice were exposed to environmental toxins, or gerontogens. Later, they examined the build-up of the harmful cells, (or senescence cells) in their bodies. They formed a few groups of mice, and each group was exposed to varied environmental factors. These groups were exposed to obesity causing factors, arsenic, cigarette smoke, and ultraviolet rays.

The Results

It was found that the groups of mice that were exposed to ultraviolet rays and cigarette smoke were found to be linked with triggered aging as compared to other groups that were exposed to arsenic and obesity. According to Sharpless, cigarette smoke is one of the main culprits of premature aging in the majority of people.  However, he also insists that there are many other gerontogens that cause accelerated aging, but they are not aware of those yet.

The researchers are hopeful that other labs will make use of their system in order to ensure the impact of gerontogens on aging. Earlier studies conducted on humans indicate that people suffering from breast cancer experience premature aging after they are exposed to chemotherapy. These findings were based by measuring the amount of P16 by a blood test. P16 is a gene that increases as a person age. P16 is also used as one of the markers to measure damaged cells or senescence cells.

Chemotherapy Accelerates Aging

Sharpless says that chemotherapy can increase the age by fifteen years; however, oncologists are not startled by this finding, as they are aware of the long-term negative impact of chemotherapy on patients. Sharpless and his researchers are hopeful that tests that are able to measure the correct ‘physiologic’ age of people might assist doctors to find other suitable treatments for different patients.

In medical science, there are numerous conditions when doctors prescribe treatments based on patient’s age. For instance, breast cancer patients who are above the age of sixty are given more toxic chemotherapy as compared to breast cancer patients who are above eighty. Doctor prefers giving them gentle chemotherapy considering their growing age. However, Sharpless says that it is not as easy as it sounds. There are people who are eighty years old, but physiologically they are sixty and vice versa. Thus, better understanding of the right physiological age will help doctors prescribe better treatment to patients.

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