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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Mar;14(3):693-8.

Similar uptake of lung carcinogens by smokers of regular, light, and ultralight cigarettes.

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  • 1Transdiciplinary Tobacco Use Research and Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.

Erratum in

  • Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Aug;15(8):1568.


Cigarette design has changed markedly over the past 60 years and sales-weighed levels of tar and nicotine have decreased. Currently, cigarettes are classified as regular (>14.5 mg tar), light (>6.5-14.5 mg tar), and ultralight (< or =6.5 mg tar), based on a Federal Trade Commission-specified machine-smoking protocol. Epidemiologic studies suggest that there is no difference in lung cancer risk among people who smoke light or ultralight cigarettes compared with regular cigarettes, but the uptake of lung carcinogens in smokers of these types of cigarettes has never been reported. We recruited 175 smokers, who filled out a tobacco use questionnaire in which their current brand was identified as regular, light, or ultralight. Urine samples were collected and analyzed for 1-hydroxypyrene (1-HOP), total 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL plus its glucuronides) and total cotinine (cotinine plus its glucuronides). 1-HOP and total NNAL are biomarkers of uptake of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, lung carcinogens in cigarette smoke. Total cotinine is a biomarker of nicotine uptake. There were no statistically significant differences in urinary levels of 1-HOP, total NNAL, and total cotinine in smokers of regular, light, and ultralight cigarettes, whether the results were expressed per mg urinary creatinine, per mL of urine, or per mg creatinine divided by cigarettes per day. Levels of machine measured tar were available for the cigarettes smoked by 149 of the subjects. There was no correlation between levels of tar and any of the biomarkers. These results indicate that lung carcinogen and nicotine uptake, as measured by urinary 1-HOP, total NNAL, and total cotinine is the same in smokers of regular, light, and ultralight cigarettes. The results are consistent with epidemiologic studies that show no difference in lung cancer risk in smokers of these cigarettes.

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