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Updated 22 August 2016

E-cigarettes less of a cancer risk than regular smokes

A study indicates that smokers who switch to e-cigarettes reduce their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

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Smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes get the same levels of nicotine, but lower levels of toxins and cancer-causing chemicals, new research shows.

Nicotine levels unchanged

"This study suggests that smokers who completely switch to e-cigarettes and stop smoking tobacco cigarettes may significantly reduce their exposure to many cancer-causing chemicals," said lead author Maciej Goniewicz, an assistant professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

Read: When it comes to e-cigs, Big Tobacco is concerned for your health

The researchers recruited 20 daily-smoking adults who had smoked for an average of 12 years. For two weeks, they used e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes. During that time, their urine was analysed for levels of nicotine and 17 "biomarkers" of toxins and carcinogens.

Significant declines in 12 of the 17 biomarkers were noted during those two weeks. The declines were similar to those seen when people quit smoking, the researchers said. However, nicotine levels remained the same during the study period.

The research was published online in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Read: Long-term effects of e-cigarettes still unknown

"Our findings suggest that e-cigarette use may effectively reduce exposure to toxic and carcinogenic substances among smokers who completely switch to these products," study co-author Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a Roswell institute news release.

"Future research will help determine whether e-cigarettes reduce the risk of disease among dual users – those who both smoke and vape – and those who use electronic cigarettes for a long time," he added.

Read more:

E-cigarette poisoning skyrocketing among kids

E-cigarettes less addictive than regular cigarettes

Are e-cigarettes a gateway to smoking?

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