Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 compounds. These include phenols, carbonyls, and nitrosamines that may be irritants and carcinogens; particulate matter such as tars; volatiles and gases such as carbon monoxide; and nicotine. Many of these compounds may contribute to the adverse health effects of tobacco. For example, recent findings have shown that the angiogenic and proliferative effects of nicotine are mediated by activation of nicotinic receptors on the vascular cells. Nicotine-induced activation of vascular cells may contribute to pathological neovascularization in cancer, age-related macular degeneration, and atherosclerosis. This review focuses on how nicotine adversely affects cardiovascular health and highlights intriguing new data about nicotine's potent angiogenic and proliferative properties.
Keywords: SLURP peptides; angiogenic effect; atherosclerosis; nicotine; nicotine replacement therapy; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; vascular endothelial growth factor.