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Keywords:

  • acetaldehyde;
  • upper digestive tract cancer;
  • alcohol drinking;
  • smoking

Abstract

Alcohol drinking and smoking are independent risk factors for upper digestive tract cancers. Furthermore, their combined use interacts in a multiplicative way on cancer risk. There is convincing evidence that acetaldehyde, the first metabolite of ethanol and a constituent of tobacco smoke, is a local carcinogen in humans. Therefore, we examined the combined effect of alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking on in vivo acetaldehyde concentration in saliva. Seven smokers and 6 nonsmokers participated in the study. First, to measure the effect of alcohol on salivary acetaldehyde, all volunteers ingested 0.8 g/kg body weight of ethanol and saliva samples were collected every 20 min for 160 min thereafter. After a 3-day washout period, smokers ingested again the same amount of ethanol and smoked one cigarette every 20 min and saliva samples were collected at 10 min intervals for 160 min. Acetaldehyde and ethanol concentrations were analyzed by headspace gas chromatograph. Firstly, smokers without concomitant smoking during ethanol challenge had 2 times higher in vivo salivary acetaldehyde concentrations than nonsmokers after ethanol ingestion (AUC 114.8 ± 11.5 vs. 54.2 ± 8.7 μM × hr, respectively; p = 0.002). Secondly, smokers with active smoking during ethanol challenge had 7 times higher in vivo salivary acetaldehyde levels than nonsmokers (AUC 369.5 ± 12.2 vs. 54.2 ± 8.7 μM × hr, respectively; p < 0.001). We conclude that this markedly increased exposure of upper digestive tract mucosa to carcinogenic salivary acetaldehyde of smoking and drinking subjects may explain the synergistic and multiplicative risk effect of alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking on upper gastrointestinal tract carcinogenesis. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.