Lung cancer study finds mentholated cigarettes no more harmful than regular cigarettes

Mar 23, 2011

Smokers of mentholated cigarettes are no more likely to develop lung cancer than other smokers, according to a new, very large, prospective study of black and white smokers published online March 23 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In fact, contrary to a popular hypothesis, menthol smokers in this study had a somewhat lower risk of developing and dying from lung cancer than non-menthol smokers.

Lung cancer rates are higher among blacks than whites, and use of mentholated cigarettes, also higher among blacks, has been suggested as a possible explanation. Some studies have raised the possibility that menthol influences smoking behavior, causing deeper for instance, or that it increases dependency or affects the biology of the lung. Others have suggested that menthol makes it harder to quit smoking.

To explore these issues, William J. Blot, Ph.D., of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn., and the International Epidemiology Institute, Rockville, Md., and colleagues conducted a prospective study among 85,806 people enrolled in the Southern Community Cohort Study, an ongoing multiracial study in 12 southern states. Within this cohort, they identified 440 patients and compared them with 2,213 matched controls (other people in the study with the same demographics, such as race, age, and sex, but without lung cancer).

They found that menthol cigarettes were associated with a lower lung cancer incidence and fewer lung cancer deaths than regular cigarettes. For instance among people smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day, menthol smokers were about 12 times more likely to have lung cancer than never-smokers while non-menthol smokers were about 21 times more likely to have the disease. The differences were statistically significant.

The researchers also collected information on smoking behavior, including , among 12,373 participants who smoked and who responded to a follow-up questionnaire. Among both blacks and whites, menthol smokers reported smoking fewer cigarettes per day than non-menthol smokers. After an average 4.3 years of follow up, 21% of those who smoked at the beginning of the study had quit; the quit rate was about the same for menthol and non-menthol .

The authors conclude that mentholated cigarettes are no more, and perhaps less, harmful than non-mentholated cigarettes. They note that the findings are timely, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now considering whether to ban or regulate mentholated cigarettes.

"Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of premature death in the United States, but undue emphasis on reduction of menthol relative to other cigarettes may distract from the ultimate health prevention message that smoking of any cigarettes is injurious to health," they write.

Explore further: Blood and saliva tests help predict return of HPV-linked oral cancers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Menthol cigarette smokers may have harder time quitting

Sep 25, 2006

Although menthol and non-menthol cigarettes appear to be equally harmful to the lungs and cardiovascular system, menthol cigarettes may be harder to quit, according to a UCSF-led study that tracked more than 1,200 smokers ...

Recommended for you

New paper describes how DNA avoids damage from UV light

10 hours ago

In the same week that the U.S. surgeon general issued a 101-page report about the dangers of skin cancer, researchers at Montana State University published a paper breaking new ground on how DNA – the genetic code in every ...

Drug target identified for common childhood blood cancer

12 hours ago

In what is believed to be the largest genetic analysis of what triggers and propels progression of tumor growth in a common childhood blood cancer, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center report that they have identified ...

User comments : 0