The recent Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco just held its annual meeting in Ireland; some fascinating research is happening all over the world.
Researchers are looking at SNPs for therapeutic targets, to predict whether patients would succeed in abstinence programs, and more. Other studies are examining the difference in response to nicotine, pleasure response, cessation and more between genders and among ethnic groups. What about using YouTube for cessation programs? There's a study for that. The impacts of banning smoking in public places, smoking and mental health, smoking and cancer? Read all about it. There's even a psycholinguistic study for Patrick! (#PA10-4, dear Mr. Lockerby.)
What drew my attention to the meeting was an AP article by health/medical reporter Lauren Neergaard on one particular poster session, POS5-62. David Burns and Christy Anderson, UCSD, asked whether an increase in adenocarcinoma is a result of changes in cigarette design.
Up to half of the nation's lung cancer cases may be due to [changes in cigarette design], Dr. David Burns of the University of California, San Diego, told a recent meeting of tobacco researchers.Burns looked at smoking behaviors of different age groups over 40 years, and how risk of cancer changed. Squamous cell carcinoma remained level, but adenocarcinoma increased - it's responsible for about 65-70% of new lung cancer cases in the U.S., but only 40% of Australia's new lung cancer cases.
It's not the first time that scientists have concluded the 1960s movement for lower-tar cigarettes brought some unexpected consequences. But this study, while preliminary, is among the most in-depth looks. And intriguingly it found the increase in a kind of lung tumor called adenocarcinoma was higher in the U.S. than in Australia even though both countries switched to so-called milder cigarettes at the same time. "The most likely explanation for it is a change in the cigarette," Burns said in an interview — and he cited a difference: Cigarettes sold in Australia contain lower levels of nitrosamines, a known carcinogen, than those sold in the U.S.
It's well known that cigarettes differ from country to country, because of different tobacco crops grown locally and smokers' varying tastes. Nitrosamines are a byproduct of tobacco processing and levels vary for several reasons, including differences in curing practices.Neergaard does a good job putting this all in context, including a caveat from an American Cancer Society doc: the lower percentage in Australia "doesn't rule out a role for deeper inhaling. ... There are several strong suspects in the lineup. They may have acted in combination."
Australian cigarettes contain about 20 percent of the nitrosamine content of U.S. cigarettes, making the chemical a prime suspect, concluded Burns, who has been scientific editor of several surgeon general reports on tobacco.
She also notes the obvious: cigarettes, by any name or advertising, are still bad for you.
Be careful in assuming lower-nitrosamine cigarettes are less lethal, said Dr. Neal Benowitz of the University of California, San Francisco, a well-known tobacco expert. Lung cancer is only one of tobacco's many risks — it causes heart disease and other killer diseases, too.You can check out the various abstracts in the links below.
"If you reduce someone's (lung cancer) risk by 10 percent, that's not really meaningful for an individual," he said. "The goal still is to get them to stop."