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Use of 'light' cigarettes linked to rise in lung adenocarcinoma

Researchers are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action banning use of ventilation holes on cigarettes to make them "light."

By Amy Wallace
Use of 'light' cigarettes linked to rise in lung adenocarcinoma
According to a newly published study, "light" cigarettes appear to be largely to blame for an increase in cases and deaths of a type of lung cancer known as adenocarcinoma. Photo by Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute

May 22 (UPI) -- Study shows so-called "light" cigarettes do not benefit health and may contribute to the increased risk of lung adenocarcinoma, a form of lung cancer.

Researchers at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, or OSUCCC-James, in collaboration with five other universities, found that a certain type of lung cancer known as lung adenocarcinoma has been on the rise over the last 50 years while other types of lung cancer have been declining.

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Lung adenocarcinoma is a form of non-small cell lung cancer and the most common form of lung cancer.

The study found that the increase in lung adenocarcinoma may be attributed to the use of low tar or light cigarettes marketed by the tobacco industry as a "healthier" option to regular cigarettes.

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Light or low tar cigarettes have holes in the cigarette filter, which allow smokers to inhale more smoke with higher levels of carcinogens, mutagens and other toxins, and have been on the market for 50 years.

"This was done to fool smokers and the public health community into thinking that they actually were safer," Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of the OSUCCC-James and a lung medical oncologist, said in a press release. "Our data suggests a clear relationship between the addition of ventilation holes in cigarettes and increasing rates of lung adenocarcinoma seen over the past 20 years. What is especially concerning is that these holes are still added to virtually all cigarettes that are smoked today."

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Researchers analyzed existing literature, chemistry and toxicology studies, human clinical trials and epidemiological studies of smoking behavior and cancer risk and determined that the higher incidence rates of lung adenocarcinoma were linked to filter ventilation holes in cigarettes.

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"The filter ventilation holes change how the tobacco is burned, producing more carcinogens, which then also allows the smoke to reach the deeper parts of the lung where adenocarcinomas more frequently occur," Shields said.

Researchers are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take immediate action to regulate the use of the ventilation holes including banning the holes, which would be a step further than current regulations banning the labeling and marketing of cigarettes as low tar or light.

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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