Purpose: Menthol smoking may lead to a greater increase in lung-cancer risk than smoking of nonmentholated cigarettes. Mentholation of cigarettes adds additional carcinogenic components to cigarette smoke and increases retention times for cigarette smoke in the lungs. Only two epidemiologic studies have been conducted on menthol smoking and lung cancer, and their results are conflicting. Of note, African American males have much higher rates of lung cancer than Caucasian males despite smoking fewer cigarettes per day. Because the consumption of menthol cigarettes is much more frequent among African Americans, it is of interest to examine the possible association between menthol smoking and lung-cancer risk in this population.
Methods: We examined the association between menthol cigarette smoking and lung-cancer risk among smokers by comparing 337 incident cases of lung cancer with 478 population controls enrolled in a case-control study of lung cancer. Information on smoking history and other known and potential risk factors for lung cancer, including dietary intake, was obtained by in-person interviews.
Results: The adjusted odds ratios did not differ appreciably between smokers of mentholated cigarettes versus exclusive nonmentholated cigarette smokers in the overall study group of smokers. The odds ratio (OR) for 32 pack-years or more of mentholated vs. nonmentholated cigarettes was 0.90 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.38-2.12) in African Americans and 1.06 (95% CI = 0.47-2.36) in Caucasians, and did not differ for either ethnic group (p = 0.98).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that the lung-cancer risk from smoking mentholated cigarettes resembles the risk from smoking non-mentholated cigarettes. Our data do not support the hypothesis that the increased risk of lung cancer among African Americans is due to the increased prevalence of menthol smoking.