Background: Over the past few decades, the incidence of adenocarcinoma (AC) of the lung increased much more rapidly than that of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in men and women. During this time period, filter cigarettes with substantially reduced "tar" and nicotine yields in the smoke came to dominate the market.
Methods: The risk of SCC and AC in lifelong smokers of filter cigarettes relative to lifelong nonfilter cigarette smokers was assessed in a case-control study performed between 1977 and 1995 with 2292 lung carcinoma patients and 1343 hospital controls who were current smokers.
Results: Odds ratios (OR) for SCC in male and female subjects who had smoked filter cigarettes exclusively during their lives were slightly reduced relative to lifetime nonfilter cigarette smokers in men (OR = 0.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.5-1.2), and significantly reduced in women (OR = 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-0.8). No reduction in risk was observed for AC of the lung in men or women.
Conclusions: Evidence that the increasing predominance of AC over SCC may be due in part to the reduced risk of SCC (but not AC) associated with lifelong filter cigarette smoking is strongest in women; for men, further studies that include larger numbers of lifetime filter smokers are needed to confirm this finding. A lack of protection against AC from low yield filter cigarettes may result from smokers' "compensating" with deeper and more frequent inhalation, thereby increasing delivery of carcinogens to the peripheral lung. The smoke of modern cigarettes also contains higher concentrations of nitrosamines that primarily produce AC.