Objective: Bidis are hand-rolled cigarettes commonly smoked in South Asia and are marketed to Western populations as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes. This study examined the association between bidis and other forms of tobacco use and cancer incidence in an urban developing country population.
Methods: Using data from the large, well-characterized Mumbai cohort study, adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were computed from Cox proportional hazards regression models in order to compare the relative effect of various forms of tobacco use on cancer incidence.
Results: During 649,228 person-years of follow-up 1,267 incident cancers occurred in 87,222 male cohort members. Incident oral cancer in bidi smokers (HR = 3.55; 95% CI = 2.40,5.24) was 42% higher than in cigarette smokers (HR = 2.50;95% CI = 1.65,3.78). For all respiratory and intrathoracic organs combined, the increase was 69% (HR = 5.54; 95% CI = 3.46,8.87 vs. HR = 3.28; 95% CI = 1.99,5.39); for lung and larynx, the increases were 35 and 112%, respectively. Smokeless tobacco use was associated with cancers of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx, digestive, respiratory, and intrathoracic organs.
Conclusions: Despite marketing claims to the contrary, we found that smokeless tobacco use and bidi smoking are at least as harmful as cigarette smoking for all incident cancers and are associated with increased risk of oral and respiratory/intrathoracic cancers.