Researchers at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have been awarded a $1.15 million grant to study the effect of nicotine on prostate health.
Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco products and cigarette substitutes.
Cigarette smoking causes some 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. In hopes of avoiding the cancer risk, some smokers have turned to cigarette substitutes that contain nicotine but limit exposure to other harmful chemicals.
“Doubts about this notion, however, have been raised; and it has been shown that nicotine can, in fact, affect several steps in the development of cancer,” said Ajay Singh, Ph.D., professor of pathology at the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine at USA, who was awarded the Department of Defense grant.
“Our preliminary studies make strong suggestions for a pathobiological involvement of nicotine exposure in prostate cancer aggressiveness and therapy resistance,” said Singh, who also leads the cancer biology program at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute.
Among other steps, the researchers will compare prostate tumor tissue from patients who smoke to that of patients who don’t, to study nicotine-induced changes.
“The use of nicotine-based cigarette substitutes has increased at an alarming rate among teenagers and young adults, putting them at serious risk of developing diseases such as prostate cancer,” the university said in announcing the grant.
Singh added, “Our findings may generate more awareness about these health harms and collectively, with other similar findings, may push for stronger regulations about the use of nicotine-containing products.”