A new study on mice suggests that vaping may also cause lung cancer, for instance.
Published online October 7 in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study found that 9 of 40 mice (22.5 percent) exposed to e-cigarette smoke with nicotine for 54 weeks developed lung adenocarcinomas.
The finding back up a separate vaping study by the University of Southern California on the molecular change in the oral tissue that causes cancer. This terrifying prospect has swayed many smokers to switch to e-cigs, which are thought to be benign in comparison to cigarettes.
Moon-Shong Tang, the study's lead researcher, told CNBC News that "It's foreseeable that if you smoke e-cigarettes, all kinds of disease comes out".
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Of the 20 mice exposed to e-cigarette smoke without nicotine, none of them developed cancer over the four years they studied. The mice in the study also didn't inhale the smoke like a human would, but were instead surrounded by it (whole body exposure). More than half of the e-cigarette vapor group also developed an enlarged bladder (a condition called hyperplasia), a risk factor for bladder cancer, compared to a single mouse who did the same across both control groups. However, while he acknowledged that more research is needed, he said that the results are "statistically very significant" and indicate that it's unlikely that e-cigarettes are safe for humans. "It takes two decades or more for a life-time smoker to develop lung cancer", he said. Partly as a result of such public messaging, 3.6 million junior high and high school students having embraced E-cigs, say the authors.
Against this backdrop, the new study finds that mammalian cells contain their own nitrosonium ions, which directly react with nicotine to form nitrosamines, including NNK. Specifically, the earlier study found that nicotine is transformed into nitrosamines, then into DNA damaging agents, which ultimately form DNA adducts.
In the NYU study, researchers discovered that e-cigarette vapor generated DNA damage in the lungs and bladder and "inhibits DNA fix in lung tissues".
Conventional thinking, says Dr. Tang, has been that smoke from cured tobacco deposits nitrosamines into a smoker's organs and blood.
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The new study builds upon the team's previous work, carried out in 2018, which exposed mice and human cells to e-cig vapor. "Tobacco smoke is among the most risky environmental agents to which humans are routinely exposed, but the potential of E-cig smoke as a threat to human health is not yet fully understood", says Tang, a professor in the Departments of Environmental Medicine, Medicine, and Pathology.
Researchers say their next step will be to expand the number of mice studied, to shorten and prolong e-cig exposure time, and to further investigate the genetic changes caused by e-cig smoke.
Along with Tang and Lepor, study authors were Xue-Ru Wu, Hyun-Wook Lee, Yong Xia, Fang-Ming Deng, Andre Moreira, Lung-Chi Chen, and William Huang in the departments of Environmental Medicine, Medicine, Pathology and Urology at NYU School of Medicine.
The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants R01CA190678, 1P01CA165980, P30CA16087 and ES00260.
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