E-cigarette has been touted as a healthier alternative to smoking, which has long been associated with a range of illnesses that include respiratory diseases and cancer. There are concerns though that using e-cigs also pose health risks.
Now, findings of a new study hint that while e-cigarettes may actually come with potential dangers, it can be a better alternative to regular cigarettes at least in terms of the amount of chemicals that can cause cancer.
The new research has found that people who switch to using electronic cigarettes get the same level of nicotine they would get from smoking regular cigarettes, but they are exposed to lower levels of toxins and chemicals that cause cancer. Figures from the World Health Organization show that about 8.2 million people die from cancer each year.
Study researcher Maciej Goniewicz, from Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said that the findings show that smokers who completely stop smoking tobacco cigarettes and switch to e-cigs may significantly lower their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
For the study, Goniewicz and colleagues involved 20 adults who smoked daily and were smokers for about 12 years. The participants used e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes over a period of two weeks, during which researchers analyzed their urine for levels of nicotine and biomarkers of toxins and carcinogens.
The researchers noticed a significant decline in 12 of 17 biomarkers over the two-week period. The decline was comparable to that observed when smokers quit smoking. The nicotine levels, however, remained the same during this period.
"Levels of total nicotine and some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites did not change after switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes. All other biomarkers significantly decreased after 1 week of using e-cigarettes," the researchers reported in their study, which was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research on Aug. 17.
"After 1 week, the greatest percentage reductions in biomarkers levels were observed for metabolites of 1,3-butadiene, benzene, and acrylonitrile."
While the findings suggest that using e-cigarettes can lower exposure to toxic and carcinogenic substance among smokers who completely switch to using these devices, the researchers said that further research is still needed to determine if e-cigarettes can reduce risks of developing disease among those who smoke and vape at the same time and those who use e-cigarettes for a long time.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study with smokers to demonstrate that substituting tobacco cigarettes with electronic cigarettes may reduce exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in tobacco cigarettes," Goniewicz said.