Your Livonia Dentist Discusses Why Smokeless Tobacco Causes Cancer

Although we’ve known for some time that smokeless tobacco increases the risk of certain cancers, science didn’t know exactly why until recently. New research has identified the responsible carcinogen.

Q) What in smokeless tobacco products causes cancer?

Dip, snuff, and chewing tobacco contain a strong dose of a newly-identified carcinogen called (S)-NNN, which is part of a chemical family known as nitrosamines. These chemicals can be found in everyday foods, such as beer and bacon, although researchers assert that nitrosamine levels in smokeless tobacco are far higher than the amounts in food.

Q) How much does cancer risk increase for individuals who use these products?

Researchers in the study fed rats a dose of two chemicals found in smokeless tobacco for 17 months. The rats received a dose equivalent to that of an individual consuming half a tin of smokeless tobacco every day for 30 years. The researchers state that (S)-NNN appeared to cause large numbers of oral and esophageal tumors in the rats, although exact numbers were not quantified.*

Q) What about smokeless tobacco products that have been promoted as safer, such as snus, or products that look like mints or gum?

The nitrosamine compound is found in all smokeless tobacco products, even innocuous-seeming products like snus and those that look like candy.

Q) Is smokeless tobacco less dangerous than smoking?

It depends on your point of view. Cigarettes contain the same cancer-causing chemical present in smokeless products. The reason for the higher occurrences of mouth cancers in smokeless tobacco users is likely because these smokeless varieties are held in the mouth against the soft tissues of the gums and cheeks, whereas cigarette tobacco is burned, and the smoke is inhaled.

Many people believe that smokeless tobacco products are safer than cigarettes. This may be due to the higher lung cancer fatality rate. Although an individual may not get lung cancer from smokeless tobacco or put others at risk from second-hand smoke, he will nevertheless be at higher risk for other cancers, such as cancers of the oral cavity and esophagus.

Contact our Livonia Dentist for Your Oral Care.

For preventative and restorative dental care, and to maintain your oral health, schedule your appointment with Dr. Stewart today by contacting our Livonia dental office at (734)425-4400. We gladly serve patients from Livonia and the surrounding 48151 area, Farmington Hills, Farmington, Plymouth, Northville, Novi, Dearborn Heights, and Dearborn.