Epidemiology of tobacco carcinogenesis

Curr Oncol Rep. 2000 May;2(3):257-62. doi: 10.1007/s11912-000-0076-y.


Tobacco smoking is a worldwide epidemic. Tobacco smoke is an established human carcinogen that contains more than 50 carcinogens, among the most potent of which are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and tobacco- specific nitrosamines (TSNs). Over the last 40 years, the level of tar and nicotine in cigarettes has decreased, along with the level of PAHs, but the level of TSNs has increased. Also, decreases in nicotine content can lead to an attendant increase in smoking in order for an individual to maintain his or her blood nicotine levels. Several factors determine the biologically effective dose of carcinogens, including the number of cigarettes smoked per day, type of cigarette, smoking topography, carcinogen metabolism, and DNA repair. Many studies have shown a relationship between tobacco smoke exposure, carcinogen-DNA adduct formation, tumor specific mutations (eg, p53 mutational spectra), and cancer risk. Genetically determined host capacity can influence these outcomes and the risk for tobacco addiction. Current areas of interest include determining whether women are indeed at greater risk of lung cancer compared with men, and if blacks are at higher risk than women. Also, newer methods can probably clarify the role of environmental tobacco smoke in carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tobacco / adverse effects*


  • Carcinogens