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Environ Mol Mutagen. 1990;15(3):136-44.

Induction of nuclear aberrations by smokeless tobacco in epithelial cells of human oral mucosa.

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Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, OH.


Cytologic and cytogenetic studies were performed to assess the prevalence of somatic cell genetic damage in 48 young adults equally divided to represent users and nonusers of smokeless tobacco. Exposure was ascertained by measuring saliva cotinine using capillary gas chromatography. Squamous epithelial cells sampled from the oral mucosa demonstrated significant cytologic alterations associated with tobacco exposure. The frequency of micronucleated cells was significantly (P less than .01) higher in the labial mucosa of exposed (2.22%) compared to unexposed (0.27%) individuals. The frequency of micronuclei varied widely between exposed subjects but was higher in heavily (2.48%) compared to lightly (1.29%) exposed individuals as measured by saliva cotinine levels. Morphologic classification of epithelial cell nuclei showed that the frequency of cells with normal nuclear structure was significantly (P less than .01) reduce in exposed individuals. Analysis of oral epithelial cells of five additional nonusers of smokeless tobacco but wearers of orthodontic appliances to stimulate abrasion demonstrated no difference from the nonexposed control group. Unlike the case with cigarette smokers, peripheral lymphocyte sister-chromatid exchange frequency was not affected by exposure to smokeless tobacco. The oral cytology data, however, support an interpretation of exposure-dependent nuclear alterations, including micronuclei, in the oral epithelium associated with the use of smokeless tobacco. Altogether, results suggest that use of smokeless tobacco may cause genetic damage to cells in the oral epithelium.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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