Abstract Title:

Lung cancer: is the increasing incidence due to radioactive polonium in cigarettes?

Abstract Source:

South Med J. 1986 Feb ;79(2):145-50. PMID: 3003925

Abstract Author(s):

J Marmorstein


This paper presents clinical, experimental, and epidemiologic evidence to help explain the rapidly increasing incidence of primary lung cancer, with recently observed reversal in leading cell type from squamous cell to adenocarcinoma. It postulates that this may be due to changes in modern cigarettes, with or without filters, which allow inhalation of increased amounts of radioactive lead and polonium and decreased amounts of benzopyrene. This hypothesis is based upon measurements of increased concentrations of radioactive polonium in the lungs of cigarette smokers, in modern tobaccos grown since 1950, and in high-phosphate fertilizers used for tobacco farming in industrialized countries. Critical support for this thesis is based upon experimental animal studies in which lung cancers that resemble adenocarcinomas are induced with as little as 15 rads of radioactive polonium, equal to one fifth the dosage inhaled by cigarette smokers who average two packs a day during a 25-year period.

Study Type : Review

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