Swedish snus are gaining a lot of attention as both a replacement tobacco for persecuted smokers all over America and as a non-conventional stop smoking aid. This has led to a lot of discussion about the tobacco product and its safety for users.
Here’s a look at the cancer risks posed by Swedish and American snus.
1. Lung Cancer. Of course, you don’t inhale Swedish snus or smoke them in any way, so there seems to be no link in lung cancer and this form of smokeless tobacco. A Lancet study performed from 1978-1992 showed no increased incidence of lung cancer, somewhat unsurprisingly, between non-smokers and snus users. The group for this study was very large, and at this point it’s considered to be one of the top studies ever performed on snus cancer risks.
2. Oral Cancer. The Lancet study above also showed no increased incidence of oral cancer, which is somewhat surprising, since American chewing tobacco is known to have increased mouth cancer risks. Snus are treated differently from American chewing tobacco, however, and part of their curing process involves stripping the tobacco of as many carcinogens as possible and not heating the tobacco to the point where carcinogens are released, which may explain this finding.
3. Pancreatic Cancer. In the Lancet study that tracked cancer rates for snus users, smokers, and people who’d never used tobacco, snus users had about an 8.8 per 100,000 cases rate of pancreatic cancer. The cancer rate for the non-smokers was 3.3 per 100,000, so while snus still has a low cancer rate in this area, it is higher than for the non-tobacco users. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most fast-acting and brutal forms of the disease, with the fourth-highest fatality rates of all cancers in the United States according to a study posted on CA Online, a cancer journal for Clinicians.
About 30 carcinogens have been identified in snus, so it’s far from a safe alternative to cigarettes. However, it can certainly be said that it’s less harmful, at least in terms of lung diseases and the cancers discussed above, than cigarettes, so those of the harm-reduction school of thought believe that it’s a good idea for smokers trying to quit to switch to snus for a nicotine fix, at least before stopping the habit altogether.
Are you a regular snus user? Post in our comments section below.
American Cancer Society, “Cancer Rates 2007.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
Luo, Juhua, et al. “Oral use of Swedish moist snuff (snus) and risk for cancer of the mouth, lung, and pancreas in male construction workers: a retrospective cohort study,” The Lancet.