April 22, 2009
Nicotine chewing gum, lozenges and inhalers designed to help people to give up smoking may have the potential to cause cancer, research has suggested.
Scientists have discovered a link between mouth cancer and exposure to nicotine, which may indicate that using oral nicotine replacement therapies for long periods could contribute to a raised risk of the disease. A study led by Muy-Teck Teh, of Queen Mary, University of London, has found that the effects of a genetic mutation that is common in mouth cancer can be worsened by nicotine in the levels that are typically found in smoking cessation products.
The results raise the prospect that nicotine, the addictive chemical in tobacco, may be more carcinogenic than had previously been appreciated. “Although we acknowledge the importance of encouraging people to quit smoking, our research suggests nicotine found in lozenges and chewing gums may increase the risk of mouth cancer,” Dr Teh said. “Smoking is of course far more dangerous, and people who are using nicotine replacement to give up should continue to use it and consult their GPs if they are concerned. The important message is not to overuse it, and to follow advice on the packet.”