A biomarker of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and Ernst Wynder's opinion about ETS and lung cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Ernst Wynder did not believe that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), also known as secondhand smoke, was a cause of lung cancer because his own data did not support this. His view on the issue may have begun to change with our initial studies, carried out at the American Health Foundation, showing that metabolites of the tobacco-specific lung carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) were present in the urine of non-smokers exposed to ETS. The metabolites - 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL) and its glucuronides (NNAL-Glucs) - have now emerged as leading biomarkers for the study of carcinogen exposure in non-smokers exposed to ETS. Subsequent work has consistently demonstrated elevated levels of NNAL plus NNAL-Glucs in the urine of people exposed to ETS in various field studies and throughout life. These studies strongly support the epidemiologic data demonstrating that ETS exposure causes lung cancer in non-smokers and have likely had an impact on tobacco control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-260
Number of pages5
JournalPreventive medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank my many colleagues, both at the American Health Foundation and, after 1996, at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, who have been involved in this research. Most notably, Steven Carmella has been instrumental in the development and continual improvement of methods for analysis of total NNAL in human urine. Our research on tobacco-specific nitrosamines is supported by grants no. CA-81301 and DA-13333 from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and RP-00-138 from the American Cancer Society.


  • 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL) and its glucuronides (NNAL-Glucs)
  • 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK)
  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental tobacco smoke
  • Secondhand tobacco smoke


Dive into the research topics of 'A biomarker of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and Ernst Wynder's opinion about ETS and lung cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this