WEDNESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of lung cancer
for people who smoke menthol cigarettes is no greater than that of
those who prefer regular cigarettes, researchers report.
The findings echo those of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration
advisory panel that made headlines Friday when it said a ban on
mentholated cigarettes might benefit the public health. While the
panel concluded that menthols' minty flavor seems to help people
take up smoking more readily, it added that there was no evidence
menthols were any more dangerous than regular cigarettes in terms
of risks for lung cancer or other respiratory ailments.
The new study, published online March 23 in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, seems to agree with that notion. In fact, the researchers found that people who smoke menthol cigarettes might even have a somewhat lower risk of developing and dying from lung cancer than other smokers.
But one expert said that no one should be misled by the findings
into thinking menthols can keep lung cancer, emphysema and other
respiratory diseases at bay.
"While this study finds no difference in lung cancer rates in smokers of menthol cigarettes versus non-menthol cigarettes, it is still inconveniently true that all cigarettes can cause lung cancer, as well as other
cancers, heart disease, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease] and circulatory problems," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a
pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"There is simply no safe smoking."
The U.S. team analyzed data from almost 86,000 people taking
part in an ongoing multiracial study in 12 southern states. They
identified 440 lung cancer patients and compared them with more
than 2,200 healthy people.
Menthol cigarettes were associated with lower lung cancer
incidence and fewer lung cancer deaths than regular cigarettes,
according to the study. For example, among people who smoked 20 or
more cigarettes a day, menthol cigarette smokers were about 12
times more likely to develop lung cancer than never-smokers while
the risk was about 21 times higher for smokers of regular
Menthol cigarettes are no more, and perhaps less, harmful than
regular cigarettes, concluded study author William J. Blot, of the
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn., and the
International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Md., and
The study authors agreed with Horovitz, however, that there is
no safe cigarette.
"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," Blot's team noted.
After looking over its advisory panel's report, the FDA will
consider whether to ban or regulate menthol cigarettes. According
to officials, the first response to the report is due from the
agency within three months.
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