I am researching the neoplastic effects of tobacco smoke and would like to measure a set of key molecules in the saliva of several study subjects after they have smoked.

Which are the most relevant carcinogens originating from tobacco smoke that are detectable in saliva? I don't think there will be time or room to measure metabolites, as the saliva samples will only reflect short-term (<60 minutes) exposure to tobacco smoking.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So you're after compounds present directly after smoking? Some metabolites may also be present (?) so I'm just trying to get this question clear. +1 $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Apr 4, 2017 at 8:20
  • $\begingroup$ #AliceD The saliva will reflect only short-term (<60 minutes) exposure, so I don't think there will be metabolites $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2017 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


This is not an easy question - as tobacco smoke contains something like 5000 different chemical components, from which 70-100 are carcinogen. The list includes: Oolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), N-nitrosamines, aromatic amines, aldehydes, volatile organic hydrocarbons and metals. I haven't found articles which specifically concentrate on the carcinogens in saliva, but my guess would be that you find them all because of the "application route" of the cigarettes.

Most of these carcinogens first need to be processed from the livers cytochrome P450 system to reach their carcinogenic potential. The enzyme complex converts these substances into forms which can then covalently bind to DNA.

A list of several different of the carcinogens can also be found in the Wikipedia. For further information see the references.


  1. Hazardous Compounds in Tobacco Smoke
  2. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General.
  3. Tobacco Smoke Carcinogens and Lung Cancer

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