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Cancer Health Center

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Smokeless Tobacco: Unsafe Alternative

Study Shows Smokeless Tobacco -- Like Cigarettes -- Delivers Carcinogens Into Bloodstream
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 10, 2007 -- Looking for a safe substitute for cigarettes? Smokeless tobacco isn't the way to go, according to a new report.

The report shows that smokeless tobacco may be as bad -- or worse -- than cigarettes, in terms of exposing users to certain cancer-causing chemicals.

"Our results raise serious questions about the strategy of using smokeless tobacco as a substitute for cigarette smoking. Long-term nicotine replacement therapy may be a better option," write the researchers, who included the University of Minnesota's Steven Hecht, PhD.

"This study lends evidence to support the notion that oral use of tobacco actually provides a more efficient means for delivering certain carcinogens into the body through the bloodstream, although cigarette smoke includes a host of carcinogenic products that aren't a major factor in smokeless tobacco," Hecht says in a news release.

Smokeless Tobacco vs. Cigarettes

Data came from six studies that together included 420 smokers and 182 smokeless tobacco users, all of whom were trying to cut down on their tobacco use.

Hecht's team compared levels of certain cancer-causing chemicals detected in the participants' urine samples.

Levels of those chemicals from the smokeless tobacco users were equal to or higher than the levels from the cigarette smokers.

The researchers say that while "there is no doubt that the risk for lung cancer is greater in smokers than in smokeless tobacco users," smokeless tobacco isn't harmless and can cause oral cancer.

The report didn't include details about the participants' medical history. The findings appear in the August edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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