Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Damage to DNA in cervical epithelium related to smoking tobacco.

British Medical Journal 1993; 306 doi: (Published 29 May 1993) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1993;306:1444
  1. A M Simons,
  2. D H Phillips,
  3. D V Coleman
  1. Cytology and Cytogenetics Unit, St Mary's Hospital Medical School, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine whether tobacco smoking causes increased DNA modification (adducts) in human cervical epithelium. DESIGN--Comparison of DNA adducts measured by the technique of postlabelling with phosphorus-32 in normal ectocervical epithelium of smokers and non-smokers. A questionnaire on smoking habit and a urinary cotinine assay were used to identify smokers and non-smokers. SETTING--Cytology unit in large teaching hospital. SUBJECTS--39 women (11 current smokers, seven former smokers, and 21 who had never smoked) undergoing gynaecological treatment (colposcopy or hysterectomy). Nineteen members of staff who did not smoke as controls. INTERVENTIONS--Biopsy of normal ectocervical epithelium. Urine sample. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Measurement of DNA adducts in cervical epithelial tissue of smokers and non-smokers. Smoking habit derived from results of questionnaire and urinary cotinine:creatinine ratio. Proportion of adducts in women with abnormal and normal results of cervical smear test. RESULTS--DNA samples from smokers (identified from questionnaire) had significantly higher median proportions of DNA adducts that non-smokers (4.62 (95% confidence interval 4.04 to 7.74) v 3.47 (2.84 to 4.78) adducts/10(8) nucleotides; p = 0.048). Exclusion of women whose urinary cotinine:creatinine ratio did not confirm their self reported smoking habit (smoker or non-smoker) increased this difference (4.7 (3.85 to 8.08) v 3.52 (2.32 to 4.95) adducts/10(8) nucleotides; p = 0.03). Women who had abnormal results of cervical smear tests had significantly higher proportions of adducts than those with normal results (4.7 (3.90 to 8.13) v 3.47 (3.06 to 5.36) adducts/10(8) nucleotides; p = 0.03). CONCLUSIONS--Tobacco smoking by women leads to increased modification of DNA in cervical epithelium, suggesting biochemical evidence consistent with smoking as a cause of cervical cancer.