Gerontogens, not to be confused with gerontogenes (genes that influence aging) are the latest advance in the nomenclature of aging, and possibly in the science of aging. Time will tell. Researchers at the University of North Carolina are convinced that the rate at which we age is influenced by environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke, chemicals like benzene, and stress. Now they have a name for such environmental factors: gerontogens. A UNC news release quotes UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Ned Sharpless, whose paper on gerontogens appears today in Cell Press journal Trends in Molecular Medicine, saying this: “The rate of physiologic, or molecular, aging differs between individuals in part because of exposure to ‘gerontogens’, i.e., environmental factors that affect aging. We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer biology, so will an understanding of gerontogens benefit the study of aging. By identifying and avoiding gerontogens, we will be able to influence aging and life expectancy at a public health level.” OK. Sharpless says cigarette smoke is probably the most important gerontogen, but he adds to the list UV radiation from the sun and chemotherapy. The UNC researchers are calling for a concerted research effort to understand the clinical uses for molecular tests of aging as well as the epidemiology of accelerated aging.“We believe the comparison of molecular markers of aging to clinical outcomes should begin in earnest,” said Sharpless,, who wonders if biomarkers to aging predict toxicity from surgery or chemotherapy in patients in whom chronological age is already a known risk factor. Read more from the University of North Carolina.