E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular in the last decade and are considered less harmful than traditional tobacco products due to the lower content of toxic and carcinogenic compounds. However, this is still a controversial issue. This paper contains a review of previous reports on the composition of e-cigarettes and their impact on the pathogenesis and risk of head and neck cancer (HNC). The objective of the review was to compare the molecular and health effects of e-cigarette use in relation to the effects of traditional cigarette smoking in the upper respiratory tract, and to assess the safety and effect of e-cigarettes on HNC risk. A review for English language articles published until 31 August 2020 was made, using a PubMed (including MEDLINE), CINAHL Plus, Embase, Cochrane Library and Web of Science data. The authors reviewed articles on both toxic and carcinogenic compounds contained in e-cigarettes and their molecular and health effects on the upper respiratory tract in comparison to tobacco cigarettes. The risk of developing head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) remains lower in users of e-cigarettes compared with tobacco smokers. However, more long-term studies are needed to better address the safety of e-cigarettes.
Keywords: carcinogenic compounds; electronic cigarettes; head and neck cancer; head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; toxicity.