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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Jul;16(7):1382-6.

Relationship of human toenail nicotine, cotinine, and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol to levels of these biomarkers in plasma and urine.

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  • 1The Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Recently, we developed sensitive and quantitative methods for analysis of the biomarkers of tobacco smoke exposure nicotine, cotinine, and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL) in human toenails. In this study, we further evaluated the newly developed toenail biomarkers by investigating their relationship to demographic factors, reported exposure, plasma nicotine, cotinine, and trans-3'-hydroxycotinine, and urinary NNAL. Toenails of 105 smokers, mean age 38.9 years (range, 19-68), were analyzed. Fifty-five (53.4%) were male, with approximately equal numbers of Whites and African-Americans. The average number of cigarettes smoked per day was 18 (range, 5-50). There was no effect of age or gender on the toenail biomarkers. Toenail NNAL was higher in White than in African-American participants (P = 0.019). Toenail nicotine and toenail cotinine correlated significantly with cigarettes smoked per day (r = 0.24; P = 0.015 and r = 0.26; P = 0.009, respectively). Toenail nicotine correlated with plasma nicotine (r = 0.39; P < 0.001); toenail cotinine correlated with plasma cotinine (r = 0.45; P < 0.001) and plasma trans-3'-hydroxycotinine (r = 0.30; P = 0.008); and toenail NNAL correlated with urine NNAL (r = 0.53; P = 0.005). The results of this study provide essential validation data for the use of toenail biomarkers in investigations of the role of chronic tobacco smoke exposure in human cancer.

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