Cigarettes More of a Risk for Black Americans
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters Health) - African-American smokers may breathe in more tobacco smoke from cigarettes than other smokers do, which could help explain their higher lung cancer rates, according to a report presented here Wednesday.
Researchers from the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York, said their investigation found that black study participants had significantly higher levels of cancer-causing tobacco byproducts in their blood and urine than a comparable group of white study participants.
``This suggests that exposure to tobacco smoke is higher in blacks than in whites, which could explain the higher lung cancer rates,'' lead investigator and foundation researcher Joshua Muscat told Reuters Health.
He presented his study, which was partly supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites), at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The foundation surveyed 167 black and 186 white smokers in the Westchester, New York area, asking them how many cigarettes they smoked each day, and what type of cigarettes they smoked. The participants were also asked about smoking-related behaviors, such as how deeply they inhaled and how much of each cigarette they smoked.
Both blacks and whites began smoking at about age 16, and had smoked an average 15 to 17 years. Blacks reported smoking fewer cigarettes per day than whites, but tended to prefer cigarettes with higher nicotine and tar per cigarette.
A greater number of blacks smoked mentholated cigarettes, Muscat said.
But, none of these factors seemed to explain why blacks have higher tobacco byproduct levels in their bodies, he noted.
Muscat and his colleagues believe that blacks are doing something different in their smoking behavior--perhaps inhaling more deeply or taking more puffs per cigarette--that may lead to a higher concentration of cancer-causing substances.
There was no difference in smoking behaviors between blacks and whites in this initial study, but the smokers reported their own actions. Muscat said smokers might not be conscious of how they actually smoke.
To get a better handle on the behaviors, the foundation has begun a study where smokers are watched by observers in the lab. There, researchers can scientifically measure length of puffs and other behaviors that might influence levels of cancer-causing substances found in cigarettes.