Smokeless tobacco 'snus' linked to pancreatic cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

New research has shown that users of Swedish "snus" - an oral, smokeless tobacco - are twice as likely to contract pancreatic cancer as people who have never smoked. The findings come from an article published in the medical journal the Lancet. The study, by researchers at the Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, looked at around 280,000 Swedish construction workers who were surveyed on tobacco consumption habits from 1978 to 1992, and then followed up until 2004. The researchers found no increased risk of lung or oral cancer in snus users compared to those who had never smoked, but did find that snus users were around twice as likely to contract pancreatic cancer than those who had never smoked. However, smokers were still more likely to contract pancreatic cancer than snus users.

"Our finding is at odds with the perception that use of Swedish moist snus has no demonstrable carcinogenic risk," said lead author Dr Olof Nyren

"If valid, it will have important public health implications, since snus has been proposed as a way to reduce harm in nicotine addicts." Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, said that because snus is less harmful than other types of chewed or smoked tobaccos, it's possible it could be used to help smokers quit. However, she said it was important to remember that, as with all tobacco products, snus is not completely risk-free. "Before lifting the current EU ban on snus can be considered, we need a fully-independent Tobacco and Nicotine Regulatory Authority to govern all tobacco and nicotine products," Ms King said. "This would not only evaluate the product's suggested links with disease and whether it could help people to quit smoking. But would, just as importantly, prevent snus from being promoted to a new group of tobacco users."