Assessment of genotoxicity of waterpipe and cigarette smoking in lymphocytes using the sister-chromatid exchange assay: a comparative study

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2011 Apr;52(3):224-8. doi: 10.1002/em.20601. Epub 2010 Aug 25.


Tobacco smoking is a major world health problem. Recently, waterpipe smoking has become more popular in many countries. Although the genotoxicity associated with cigarette smoking has been extensively investigated, studies evaluating such toxicity in waterpipe users are still lacking. In this study, we examined the genotoxicity of waterpipe smoking in lymphocytes compared with the genotoxicity of cigarette smoking. Genotoxicity was evaluated using the sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) assay. Fifty waterpipe smokers and 18 healthy nonsmokers participated in this study. Additionally, 18 heavy cigarette smokers (CS) were recruited for comparison. The results show that waterpipe smoking and cigarette smoking significantly increase the frequencies of SCEs (P < 0.01) compared with those of nonsmokers, indicating the genotoxic effect of tobacco smoking. In addition, frequencies of SCEs were significantly higher among waterpipe smokers compared with CS (P < 0.01), indicating that waterpipe smoking is more genotoxic than cigarette smoking. Moreover, the frequency of SCEs increased with the extent of waterpipe use. In conclusion, waterpipe smoking is genotoxic to lymphocytes and the magnitude of its genotoxicity is higher than that induced by regular cigarette smoking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange / drug effects*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Tobacco / toxicity*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Mutagens
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution