1/02/2003 - Are Nicotine Patches a Cancer Causer?

Many people started 2003 with a pledge to stop smoking. There are plenty of products out there to help you kick the habit, but one of the most popular which claims to help you may actually harm you instead.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests nicotine patches carry their own possible risks of lung cancer.
Former smoker Lewis Ticer says,"I think when you're mentally and physically ready it's easy. I couldn't have done it without help." Nicotine patches, prescribed by his doctor, gave Ticer the help he needed. A two pack a day smoker for 40 years, Ticer kicked the habit almost two years ago. "I knew for years that I should quit. I never had the incentive or opportunity to," he says.
But a new study reports what gave Ticer the opportunity to quit may harm your body. Now researchers from the National Cancer Institute say the nicotine, well-documented as the chemical that gets you hooked on smoking, may actually help set the stage for cancer. The new research suggests that it's not only the tobacco and cancer agents in cigarettes that cause cancer. Now it may also be the nicotine, the primary make up of the patch.
Pharmacist Ben Tally has seen the patch work for several of his customers. He doesn't think the nicotine the patch releases in your body, will cause cancer. "I don't see a problem at this point," Tally says. "I think you're better served getting off cigarettes and get rid of the 2000 chemicals. You're going to decrease your risk and just have plain nicotine." Ticer agrees. He says, "When something does definitely cause lung cancer against something that may cause lung cancer or you aren't sure, you got to figure out what your odds are."
Still, lead researchers believe short-term use of nicotine products is preferable to smoking.