PMID: 3286030Jun 1, 1988Paper

Tobacco-specific nitrosamines, an important group of carcinogens in tobacco and tobacco smoke

S S Hecht, D Hoffmann


Tobacco-specific nitrosamines are a group of carcinogens that are present in tobacco and tobacco smoke. They are formed from nicotine and related tobacco alkaloids. Two of the nicotine-derived nitrosamines, NNK and NNN, are strong carcinogens in laboratory animals. They can induce tumors both locally and systemically. The induction of oral cavity tumors by a mixture of NNK and NNN, and the organospecificity of NNK for the lung are particularly noteworthy. The amounts of NNK and NNN in tobacco and tobacco smoke are high enough that their total estimated doses to long-term snuff-dippers or smokers are similar in magnitude to the total doses required to produce cancer in laboratory animals. These exposures thus represent an unacceptable risk to tobacco consumers, and possibly to non-smokers exposed for years to environmental tobacco smoke. The permission of such high levels of carcinogens in consumer products used by millions of people represents a major legislative failure. Indeed, the levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in tobacco are thousands of times higher than the amounts of other nitrosamines in consumer products that are regulated by government authorities. Although the role of tobacco-specific nitrosamines as causati...Continue Reading


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