E-cigarettes induce toxicological effects that can raise the cancer risk

Sci Rep. 2017 May 17;7(1):2028. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02317-8.


Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are devices designed to deliver nicotine in a vaping solution rather than smoke and without tobacco combustion. Perceived as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, e-cigs are aggressively marketed as lifestyle-choice consumables, thanks to few restrictions and a lack of regulatory guidelines. E-cigs have also gained popularity among never-smokers and teenagers, becoming an emergent public health issue. Despite the burgeoning worldwide consumption of e-cigs, their safety remains largely unproven and it is unknown whether these devices cause in vivo toxicological effects that could contribute to cancer. Here we demonstrate the co-mutagenic and cancer-initiating effects of e-cig vapour in a rat lung model. We found that e-cigs have a powerful booster effect on phase-I carcinogen-bioactivating enzymes, including activators of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and increase oxygen free radical production and DNA oxidation to 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine. Furthermore, we found that e-cigs damage DNA not only at chromosomal level in peripheral blood, such as strand breaks in leucocytes and micronuclei formation in reticulocytes, but also at gene level such as point mutations in urine. Our results demonstrate that exposure to e-cigs could endanger human health, particularly among younger more vulnerable consumers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • DNA Damage
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / adverse effects
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Volatile Organic Compounds