E-cigarettes induce toxicological effects that can raise the cancer risk

Source: Nature

Donatella Canistro, Fabio Vivarelli, Silvia Cirillo, Clara Babot Marquillas, Annamaria Buschini, Mirca Lazzaretti, Laura Marchi, Vladimiro Cardenia, Maria Teresa Rodriguez-Estrada, Maura Lodovici, Caterina Cipriani, Antonello Lorenzini, Eleonora Croco, Silvia Marchionni, Paola Franchi, Marco Lucarini, Vincenzo Longo, Clara Maria Della Croce, Andrea Vornoli, Annamaria Colacci, Monica Vaccari, Andrea Sapone & Moreno Paolini
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 2028 (2017)
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Public healthQuality of life
02 November 2016
10 April 2017
Published online:
17 May 2017

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are devices designed to deliver nicotine in a vaping solution rather than smoke and without tobacco combustion. Perceived as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, e-cigs are aggressively marketed as lifestyle-choice consumables, thanks to few restrictions and a lack of regulatory guidelines. E-cigs have also gained popularity among never-smokers and teenagers, becoming an emergent public health issue. Despite the burgeoning worldwide consumption of e-cigs, their safety remains largely unproven and it is unknown whether these devices cause in vivo toxicological effects that could contribute to cancer. Here we demonstrate the co-mutagenic and cancer-initiating effects of e-cig vapour in a rat lung model. We found that e-cigs have a powerful booster effect on phase-I carcinogen-bioactivating enzymes, including activators of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and increase oxygen free radical production and DNA oxidation to 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine. Furthermore, we found that e-cigs damage DNA not only at chromosomal level in peripheral blood, such as strand breaks in leucocytes and micronuclei formation in reticulocytes, but also at gene level such as point mutations in urine. Our results demonstrate that exposure to e-cigs could endanger human health, particularly among younger more vulnerable consumers.

The lack of tobacco combustion, the most attractive feature of e-cigarettes (e-cigs), still allows smokers to inhale the aerosol in the same way as conventional cigarettes. E-cigs provide a copying mechanism for conditioned smoking by replacing some of the rituals associated with the automatic gestures of “regular” smoking1. Moreover, the possibility to use e-cigs in smoke-free places, the lack of specific regulations and the perceived potential for harm reduction1 make e-cigs very popular. For all these reasons, e-cigs are considered an alternative to tobacco cigarettes and an effective strategy to quit smoking. Contrary to the general belief that the lack of tobacco combustion typical of electronic nicotine-delivery systems avoids the production of harmful chemicals, the high temperature reached by e-cig solutions (>200 degrees Celsius)2 can generate dozens of toxic substances3,4,5, including tobacco-specific PAHs, nitrosamines, metals, carbonyl compounds such as acrolein and formaldehyde, which is classified as carcinogenic to humans (group 1, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC) and acetaldehyde, possibly carcinogenic (group 2B)3. Although e-cigs contain lower levels of these substances than tobacco cigarettes, these toxic mixtures have given rise to recent safety concerns3,4,5, stressing the need for appropriate toxicological data on these devices. The aim of the present study was to investigate several toxicological aspects associated with e-cig use including their mutagenic and co-mutagenic potential in a rat model.



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