Tobacco-specific N-nitrosamine exposures and cancer risk in the Shanghai cohort study: Remarkable coherence with rat tumor sites

Irina Stepanov, Erin Sebero, Renwei Wang, Yu Tang Gao, Stephen S. Hecht, Jian Min Yuan

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41 Scopus citations


The tobacco-specific nitrosamines N′-nitrosonornicotine (NNN) and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) are potent carcinogens for the rat esophagus and lung, respectively. Consistent with the animal carcinogenicity data, we previously reported a remarkably strong association between prospectively measured urinary total NNN, a biomarker of human NNN intake, and the risk of developing esophageal cancer among smokers in the Shanghai Cohort Study. We also demonstrated that urinary total 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL), a biomarker of exposure to the lung carcinogen NNK, is strongly associated with the risk of lung, but not esophageal cancer in smokers. In this study, we investigated the potential relationship between NNN intake and lung cancer risk in the same cohort. The prospectively collected urine samples from lung cancer cases and matching controls selected for this study, all current smokers, have been previously analyzed for total NNAL, cotinine (a biomarker of nicotine intake) and phenanthrene tetraol (PheT) (a biomarker of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Urinary levels of total NNN were not associated with the risk of lung cancer: odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) associated with the second and third tertiles of total NNN, relative to the lowest tertile, were 0.82 (0.36-1.88) and 1.02 (0.39-2.89), respectively (p for trend = 0.959), after adjustment for self-reported smoking history, urinary cotinine and PheT. The results of this study reaffirm the previously reported specificity of urinary total NNN and total NNAL as predictors of esophageal and lung cancer risks, respectively, in smokers, and demonstrate remarkable coherence between rat target tissues of these carcinogens and susceptibility to cancer in smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2278-2283
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2014


  • N′-nitrosonornicotine
  • biomarkers
  • lung cancer


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