The associations of race, cigarette smoking, and smoking cessation to measures of the immune system in middle-aged men

Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 1991 May;59(2):187-200. doi: 10.1016/0090-1229(91)90017-5.


To estimate the association between the immunologic responses of the cell-mediated and humoral systems and race or tobacco smoking, we used data from the Vietnam Experience Study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. That study, done from 1985 to 1986, was based on a random sample of 4462 male, Vietnam-era, U.S. veterans. Racial groups were white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian. We used linear regression to evaluate how (i) the race of the subjects, (ii) the number of pack-years of cigarettes the subjects smoked, and (iii) the smoking cessation of certain subjects were associated with their relative and absolute T, B, CD4, and CD8 lymphocyte counts and immunoglobulin A (IgA), IgM, and IgG levels. The results indicated that immune status was associated with race and smoking history and that, generally, the associations remained after adjustment for covariates. For example, the average IgA level and absolute CD8 lymphocyte count for blacks were, respectively, 19 and 16% higher than those for whites. On the other hand, smokers had lower immunoglobulin levels and relative CD8 cell counts and higher counts for other lymphocytes of the cell-mediated system than nonsmokers. For example, the average absolute B count of heavy smokers was 37% higher than that of nonsmokers. The pattern after cigarette smoking cessation was consistent with a reversible effect of smoking and a return toward immune levels of nonsmokers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Asians
  • Blacks
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunoglobulins / analysis
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Whites


  • Immunoglobulins