A carcinogen, according to Merriam-Webster, is any substance or agent that causes cancer. For quite some time, experts, scientists, and doctors have agreed that all tobacco, even the smokeless kind, contain carcinogens that place tobacco users at a much higher risk for developing cancer. For the first time, however, a new study has identified a specific chemical in smokeless tobacco that causes oral cancer in the animals tested. Aventura dentist Dr. Arun Garg discusses the study, and what it could mean for the future of tobacco and oral cancer studies.
The Worst of the Bunch
On average, smokeless tobacco contains approximately 2,000 chemicals. This only equals about the half the number of chemicals found in smoking tobacco, but that does not, by any means, indicate that chewing tobacco is safe. In fact, one pinch of smokeless tobacco delivers as much nicotine to the body as smoking three cigarettes in 30 minutes. While virtually all of the chemicals found in tobacco are harmful (approximately 28 of them are believed to cause various forms of cancer), the study indicates that one in particular, (S)-N’-nitrosonornicotine, or (S)-NNN, may be the direct cause for oral cancer in smokeless tobacco consumers.
Uncovering the Truth
Dr. Silvia Balbo, research associate at the Masonic Cancer Center of the University of Minnesota, conducted an experiment with her colleagues using 24 rats. The rats were divided into four groups, and were given either (S)-NNN alone, (R)-NNN alone, a combination of the two, or tap water. The subjects that received (S)-NNN, either alone or in combination with (R)-NNN, passed away within 17 months, and all rats who received (S)-NNN exhibited a 100% incidence of oral tumors.
Every year, over 35,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer. Due to late detection, the survival rate is less than 50% after five years from diagnosis. For more information, contact your Aventura dentist at the Center for Complete Dentistry by calling 305-935-4991, or visit our website to schedule your appointment online. Located in the 33180 area, we proudly serve patients from Aventura, Highland Lakes, North Miami Beach, and the surrounding communities.