[Volatile hydrocarbons in exhaled air: preliminary data on the characteristic profile associated with lung tumors]

G Ital Med Lav Ergon. Jul-Sep 2003;25 Suppl(3):59-60.
[Article in Italian]


The aim of this pilot study was to identify and quantify selected volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons in exhaled air from patients with non small cells lung cancer (NSCLC) as compared to healthy subjects, either smokers or non smokers. Exhaled air has been collected by repeated expirations in Tedlar bags. VOCs were sampled by solid phase micro-extraction (SPME) and analyzed by gascromatography/mass spectometry. NSCLC patients showed higher levels of pentane, 2-metilpentane, 2,4-dimetilheptane in the exhaled air as compared to smokers and non smokers. BTEX (benzene, toluene, etilbenzene and xylenes) concentrations were higher in smokers compared to other groups, whereas no differences were observed between subjects with NSCLC and smokers for heptane and octane. In summary, selected VOCs have sufficient diagnostic power to differentiate among the three groups we examined. These differences might be exploited to identify characteristic fingerprints of various lung diseases.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breath Tests
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism*
  • Exhalation
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Volatilization


  • Hydrocarbons