Filtered cigarettes do not reduce risk of oral cancer as previously thought

It’s well documented that tobacco, cigarettes or smokeless, has been linked as a cause of oral disease, including oral cancer, periodontal disease, and even teeth decay. Filtered cigarettes have been thought to reduce the amount consumed of the hazardous substances from smoking, but new research from China has found that the filters do not really reduce the risk at all. In fact, they found that the filters are only “protective” for those who smoke very little.

The researchers studied patients in eight hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong, Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong, and Guangxi between January 2008 and December 2010. Due to the low smoking rates among women in China, the study only included men. Participants included 319 patients over the age of 30 who had been diagnosed with oral cancer and 428 controls–male patients who were not diagnosed with oral cancer.

Eighty-five percent of the participants had a history of smoking, and 74 percent were current smokers, which therefore had an increased risk of developing oral cancer. Amongst the smokers, 64 percent of those who had oral cancer and 68 percent of the controls reported using filtered cigarettes.

As a result, the research found that filtered cigarettes really did little to reduce the risk of developing oral cancer in most men who smoke and definitely did not protect against tobacco-related illnesses. The risk of developing oral cancer was not significantly reduced between those who smoked filtered cigarettes and those who smoked unfiltered cigarettes. However, the research team did find that the filtered tips did help protect light smokers, meaning who had smoked less than 20 packs at the time of the study.

“During the investigation, we found that most men with less than 20 pack years smoked less intensively, while men with more pack years smoked intensively, inhaling deeply, blocking the butt or holding the smoke in their mouth for a long time. In this way, the filter tip loses its protective function,” the research team said.

The World Health Organization claims that oral cancer is the 11th most-common cancer worldwide and tobacco is the culprit for more than 40 percent of all oral cancer cases in men and 11 percent in women.

The study was conducted by researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in collaboration with scientists from the Shanghai Cancer Institute and Fudan University as part of research on the risk factors of oral cancer in the Chinese population. It was published in the January issue of the Oral Diseases journal.

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