Carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines are present at unusually high levels in the saliva of oral snuff users in Sudan.

PMID 1600602


Exposure to tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNA) has been measured in the saliva of 12 users of Sudanese oral snuff (toombak). Using GC coupled to thermal energy analysis, levels of N'-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), N'-nitrosoanatabine (NAT), N'-nitrosoanabasine (NAB) and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) were measured before, during and after snuff taking. In addition, two TSNA, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL) and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-4-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (iso-NNAL), were detected in the saliva of tobacco chewers for the first time and were confirmed by GC-MS. Nine out of 10 subjects had detectable saliva levels of total TSNA before chewing (0.01-1.0 micrograms/ml) and immediately following chewing (0.1-2.6 micrograms/ml). During dipping, TSNA concentrations reached microgram/ml levels; (range; number of subjects positive) NNN: (0.6-2.1; 12/12), NAT (0.06-0.5; 2/12), NAB (0.05-1.9; 12/12), NNK (0.06-6.7; 11/12), NNAL (0.05-3.3; 11/12) and iso-NNAL (0.07-0.4; 8/12). These saliva TSNA levels, which are 10-100 times the levels previously reported, are consistent with recent observations of unusually high TSNA levels in Sudanese toombak. As several of these TSNA have been shown to be carcinogenic in animals and epidemiological studies have associated human snuff use with tumours of the oral cavity, these findings draw attention to a significant potential public health hazard.