Smokeless tobacco use and cancer of the upper respiratory tract

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2002 May;93(5):511-5. doi: 10.1067/moe.2002.123497.


The most recent epidemiologic review of the cancer risks associated with smokeless tobacco use appeared in 1986, when 10 studies were available. This review describes 21 published studies, 20 of which are of the case-control type. We characterize each study according to the specific anatomic sites and according to the type of smokeless tobacco products for which it provides relative risks of cancer. The use of moist snuff and chewing tobacco imposes minimal risks for cancers of the oral cavity and other upper respiratory sites, with relative risks ranging from 0.6 to 1.7. The use of dry snuff imposes higher risks, ranging from 4 to 13, and the risks from smokeless tobacco, unspecified as to type, are intermediate, from 1.5 to 2.8. The strengths and limitations of the studies and implications for future research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / classification