Tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in cigarettes smoked by the participants of the Shanghai Cohort Study

Katrina Yershova, Jian Min Yuan, Renwei Wang, Liza Valentin, Clifford Watson, Yu Tang Gao, Stephen S. Hecht, Irina Stepanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Our recent studies on tobacco smoke carcinogen and toxicant biomarkers and cancer risk among male smokers in the Shanghai Cohort Study showed that exposure to tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) is prospectively associated with the risk of cancer. These findings support the hypothesis that the smokers' cancer risk is a function of the dose of select tobacco carcinogens and highlight the importance of understanding the factors that affect the intake of these carcinogens by smokers. Given that tobacco constituent exposures are driven, at least in part, by the levels of these constituents in cigarette smoke, we measured mainstream smoke TSNA and PAH levels in 43 Chinese cigarette brands that participants of the Shanghai Cohort Study reported to smoke. In all brands analyzed here, mainstream smoke levels of NNN and NNK, the two carcinogenic TSNA, were generally relatively low, averaging (±SD) 16.8(±25.1) and 14.2(±9.5) ng/cigarette, respectively. The levels of PAH were comparable to those found in U.S. cigarettes, averaging 15(±9) ng/cigarette for benzo[a]pyrene, 119(±66) ng/cigarette for phenanthrene and 37(±19) ng/cigarette for pyrene. Our findings indicate that the generally low levels of NNN and NNK are most likely responsible for the relatively low levels of the corresponding biomarkers in the urine of the Shanghai Cohort Study participants as compared to those found in the U.S. smokers, supporting the role of the levels of these constituents in cigarette smoke in smokers' exposures. Our findings also suggest that, in addition to smoking, other sources contribute to Chinese smokers' exposure to PAH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1261-1269
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Ms. Yue-Li Wang of the Shanghai Cancer Institute and Dr. Bin Ma for help with purchasing and characterizing cigarettes, Dr. Peter Villalta for help with mass spectrometry and Dr. Linda VonWeymarn for help with nicotine assay. They also thank Bob Carlson for editorial assistance. This study was supported by startup funds to IS from the Masonic Cancer Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 UICC

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • PAH
  • TSNA
  • nicotine
  • nitrate
  • nitrite
  • smoke
  • tobacco


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