Tobacco and cancer: approaches using carcinogen biomarkers and chemoprevention

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1997 Dec 29;833:91-111. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1997.tb48596.x.


Tobacco products are the leading cause of avoidable cancer death in the U.S., accounting for approximately 30% of all cancer deaths. While avoidance of tobacco and smoking cessation are clearly the best way to decrease tobacco-related cancer, these approaches have not been uniformly successful. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population over 18 years of age smokes cigarettes, while 6% use smokeless tobacco products; these figures have not changed markedly in recent years. Our approach toward the tobacco and cancer problem is based on an understanding of the carcinogens in tobacco smoke. These carcinogens form the link between nicotine addiction and cancer. In this paper, two strategies for cancer prevention--the development of carcinogen-derived biomarkers and chemopreventive agents--are discussed. Carcinogen-derived biomarkers can provide specific information on individual metabolic activation and detoxification of tobacco carcinogens. This information can be used to assess individual risk for cancer development upon exposure to tobacco products. Chemopreventive agents can be targeted against the important carcinogens in tobacco smoke. Isothiocyanates, strong inhibitors of lung cancer development by the tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, are discussed as an example of this approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Carcinogens / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Chemoprevention
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / therapeutic use
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Nitrosamines / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoke / adverse effects
  • Smoke / analysis
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Tobacco / adverse effects*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Carcinogens
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Nitrosamines
  • Smoke
  • Nicotine
  • 4-(N-methyl-N-nitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone