Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Smoking Cessation Health Center

Font Size

Study Does Nothing to Patch Up Nicotine's Reputation

WebMD Health News

July 2, 2001 -- For smokers who try to quit using a nicotine skin patch or nicotine gum, it sounds like damned if you don't, and damned if you do. A new study in the July issue Nature Medicine suggests that nicotine by itself can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, a key feature of both cancerous tumors and artery-clogging atherosclerosis.

But if you're struggling to stop smoking, relax (if you can): The overall benefits of kicking the habit far outweigh the theoretical risk from short-term use of replacement nicotine, emphasize experts interviewed by WebMD.

Nicotine replacement therapy is an effective way to help people quit smoking, says researcher John P. Cooke, MD, PhD. "It is so important to stop smoking that certainly this article -- which is in mice and not in men -- shouldn't dissuade people from using nicotine replacement therapy," says Cooke, associate professor of medicine and director of vascular medicine at Stanford University, in an interview with WebMD.

"However, nicotine replacement therapy should be used as directed: Short-term, which is how it is approved by the FDA." Long-term use, which is not recommended, may have unwanted side effects.

Researcher Rakesh K. Jain, PhD, who studies blood vessel growth, and who wrote an editorial accompanying Cooke's study, agrees.

"I think people should not panic here," he says, because the finding needs to be further investigated. Jain is with the division of radiation oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a professor of radiation oncology at Boston's Harvard Medical School.

Building on a previous study from the University of California at Davis, Cooke and colleagues studied the effects of nicotine on human blood vessel cells. In these lab studies, they found that nicotine caused a substantial increase in the number of cells and interfered with programmed cell death, a trick the body uses to get rid of old, unwanted cells. Many types of cancer cells have lost this ability to die off naturally.

In addition, when the researchers gave nicotine to mice with human lung cancer and atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, they observed that nicotine promoted new vessel growth in both the tumors and within the atherosclerotic growths -- both are signs of disease progression.

Today on WebMD

hands breaking a cigarette
Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
smoking man
Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
cigarette smoke
What happens when you kick the habit?

Filtered cigarettes
an array of e cigarettes
human heart
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms

man smoking cigarette
no smoking sign
Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
chain watch