Menthol Cigarette Smokers Have Lower Cancer Rates

Study rebuts claim that menthol cigarettes pose greater danger of lung cancer than non-menthol

THURSDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Menthol and non-menthol cigarette smokers have similar quitting rates, but menthol smokers have lower lung cancer incidence and mortality, according to a study published online March 23 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

William J. Blot, Ph.D., from the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from 12,373 racially diverse smokers, who participated in the Southern Community Cohort Study from 2002 to 2009, to compare the rates of quitting between menthol and non-menthol smokers during an average follow-up of 4.3 years. In a nested group of 440 incident lung cancer patients and 2,213 matched controls, lung cancer incidence and mortality were estimated according to menthol preference.

The investigators found that 21 percent of smokers at baseline quit during the follow-up period, with the odds of quitting similar for menthol and non-menthol smokers. Black and white menthol smokers reported smoking fewer cigarettes per day than non-menthol smokers. Compared to never smokers, menthol smokers had a lower lung cancer incidence than non-menthol smokers (odds ratio, 5.0 versus 10.3 for smoking < 10 cigarettes per day, 8.7 versus 12.9 for 10 to 19, and 12.2 versus 21.1 for ≥ 20). A similar trend was seen for lung cancer mortality. Menthol cigarettes were correlated with lower lung cancer incidence and mortality after adjusting for pack-years of smoking.

"The findings provide important new evidence that does not support claims that menthol cigarettes impart a greater lung cancer burden than non-menthol cigarettes," the authors write.

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