Does nicotine irritate the bladder? A new press release from the American Urology Association made headlines this week after making bold claims about the risk of bladder cancer associated with vaping. Many news organizations latched onto this press release reporting that e-cigarette users are more prone to bladder cancer.
However, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos quickly spoke out against these headlines as misleading and based on non-scientific data.
The Press Release
According to the American Urology Association (AUA), the study revealed that there were signs of five biomarkers associated with bladder cancer in patients who used e-cigarettes. They claimed that 92% of the e-cigarette users tested positive for at least two of the five biomarkers, which would indicate a higher risk of bladder cancer.
Dr. Farsalinos, a long time vapor advocate and researcher, took to his blog to argue against the published press release. First, he noted that the information from the AUA was based on a total sample size of 23 people (13 e-cigarette users, 10 non-users). He notes that there was not a sample group of traditional cigarette users to compare to, and there is little information about how many of the 13 e-cigarette users are former smokers, or current part-time smokers.
Since traditional cigarettes are well known for their link to bladder cancer, it stands to reason that e-cigarette users who have recently quit smoking would show signs of the biomarkers used in this study.
Dr. Farsalinos also points out the effectiveness of measuring biomarkers is questionable in the first place. He notes that previous studies have shown those same biomarkers in non-smokers at almost the same levels as smokers.
There is not sufficient difference or consistency between these measurements to assure that they are solely caused by smoking or vaping.
Finally, Dr. Farsalinos notes that the AUA press release is actually based on a survey of pre-existing studies, and is not a study unto itself. Until there are studies dedicated to solving this riddle, it is difficult to say that this is a fair assessment of the actual risks given the small sample size.
For now, Dr. Farsalinos urges people to be careful, but also be mindful of the limitations of the information published by the AUA. Until further research can be conducted, he believes that vaping still offers significant advantages over smoking.