Siberia Snus and Cancer: Is There a Link?

Siberia Snus is a moist, smokeless, finely ground tobacco product marketed as a less harmful alternative to smoking. It’s sold loose and in packets (like very small teabags).

Snus is placed between the gum and the top lip and sucked for about 30 minutes. It’s less finely ground than snuff, and it isn’t placed in the nose. Unlike chewing tobacco, it doesn’t usually involve spitting.

It’s been used for 200 years in Sweden, and for the last several years has also been manufactured in the United States. Similar products to snus are traditionally used around the world, but they vary greatly in nicotine and other chemical content.

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The use of snus is controversial. The European Union has banned its sale (except for in Sweden) because of the known addictive and harmful effects of nicotine. U.S. health agencies advise against its useTrusted Source.

There’s a concern that snus can be a “gateway” to cigarette smoking, by hooking young people on nicotine.

But advocates of snus claim that snus is less harmful than inhaling nicotine, even though it’s addictive. The snus tobacco isn’t burned, and no smoke is inhaled. So some of the worst effects of smoking aren’t present.

Plus, snus advocates say, it helps people stop smoking. They point to the public health benefits of snus use in Sweden.

Specifically, the smoking rate dropped dramatically in Sweden as more men switched to snus use. According to a 2003 review in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control, 40 percent of males smoked daily in 1976, compared with 15 percent in 2002.

At the same time, the researchers found that there have been reductions in lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and deaths from other causes in Sweden.


So, does snus cause cancer?

Whether snus causes cancer is a complex question to sort out scientifically. Study results are bewilderingly diverse. Some studies find a specific cancer risk connected to snus use, and other studies find the opposite.

Sometimes there are differences in the population groups or the timespans studied.

Some research studies lump all smokeless tobacco products together. Others are limited to snus use in Swedish populations.

Sometimes, other factors like alcohol use or body weight aren’t included.

What’s not in dispute is the link between inhaling the smoke from nicotine products and disease.

Here, we’ll look at some of the studies concerning cancer and snus.


Pancreatic cancer and snus

Smoking is known to be a high risk factorTrusted Source for pancreatic cancer. A meta-analysisTrusted Source of 82 different studies found that the increased risk of pancreatic cancer for current smokers was 74 percent. The increased risk for former smokers was 20 percent.

Does the risk remain the same with smokeless tobacco? The results aren’t clear-cut. Two studies that included snus specifically found a moderate risk increase. Two other studies found no association.

A 2007 studyTrusted Source of Swedish construction workers who used snus and who hadn’t previously smoked found an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The study concluded that use of Swedish snus should considered a possible risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

The most recent and largest studyTrusted Source, reported in 2017, involved a large sample of 424,152 males in Sweden. This included nonusers and users of snus. This study concluded that the data didn’t support any relationship between snus use and risk of pancreatic cancer in men.

The 2017 study authors noted that their findings may be related to the lower nitrosamine levels in Swedish snus than in tobacco smoke. They also suggested that the increased risk of pancreatic cancer in tobacco smokers is related to the carcinogens involved with combustion.