Does Dip Cause Cancer?

Smokeless tobacco—or dip tobacco—can cause various forms of cancer including throat (esophagus) and mouth cancer (including the lips, gum, tongue, and cheeks). It is also known to lead to pancreatic cancer. One of the immediate effects of tobacco in humans consists of an increase in pulse rate and blood pressure.

Cancer Caused By Smokeless Tobacco

In the United States, more than 2,300 people are diagnosed with esophageal, pancreatic, and oral cancers caused by smokeless tobacco use each year. Of this number, 1,600—about 70%—are oral cancer diagnoses.

Snuff


Jan Hakan Dahlstrom/Getty Images

What Is Snuff or Dip?

Snuff or dip consists of finely ground tobacco. It can be dry, packaged, or moist. Snuff is packaged in pouches or packets. There are different uses of snuff. Some types are placed in the mouth and others are inhaled into the nose or sniffed.

The dry snuff is in powder form and fire-cured. Typical use is a pinch of powder through the mouth or inhaled through the nose. Moist snuff is aged and fermented. The tobacco is processed into fine particles. The typical use of moist snuff is placing a “dip” or pinch between the lip and gums or cheek. Another popular use is U.S. snus. This is in small pouches that look like small tea bags. The pouch is placed between the teeth or cheek and gums. Unlike the dry snuff and moist snuff, U.S. snus doesn’t require spitting.

Types of Smokeless Tobacco

  • Chewing Tobacco: This form of smokeless tobacco comes in a loose-leaf twist or roll and plug. The loose-leaf form of tobacco is aged—at times sweetened—and packaged in foil pouches. The twist or roll form are aged tobacco leaves that are formed like a rope. The plug form is aged tobacco
    leaves that are pressed together and wrapped in a tobacco leaf.
  • Snuff: This is a smokeless tobacco that is dry, moist, or comes in packets. The dry form of snuff comes in a powder form and is fire-cured. Moist snuff is fermented and aged tobacco that is processed into fine particles and typically packaged in round cans. U.S. Snus comes in packages that resemble small tea bags. 
  • Dissolvables: This form of tobacco comes in lozenges, orbs that look like small mints, and sticks that look like toothpicks. 

How Much Nicotine Is in Dip?

Studies show that smokeless tobacco users have higher observed levels of exposure to nicotine.

A 30 gm can of dip has 144 mg of nicotine. That is equivalent to four packs of cigarettes which are approximately 80 cigarettes.

Worse Than Cigarettes?

Smokeless tobacco is known to deliver more nicotine than cigarette smoking. One "chew" of smokeless tobacco is equivalent to five times the amount in one cigarette. These carcinogenic compounds include formaldehyde, lead, benzopyrene, tobacco-specific nitrosamines, polonium, and cadmium. 

What's in Dip?

Orally consumed smokeless tobacco products are known to contain more than 30 carcinogens.

Oral Cancer

Usage of snuff or dip can cause cancer in the lips, cheek, and gums. Men over the age of 50 have the greatest risk of oral cancer. Regular smoking, tobacco use, and excessive use of alcohol can increase the risk of oral cancer. When cancer is caused by smokeless tobacco, it starts with a whitish patch inside the throat or mouth also known as leukoplakia. Another way it forms is erythroplakia or a raised red patch that develops inside of the mouth. An oral cancer screening exam is conducted by the dentist. This is usually part of a dental examination. If there is a concern an oral brush biopsy will be performed. The treatment of oral cancer, in general, is surgery and radiation treatment or chemotherapy to destroy additional cancer cells. 

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the esophagus. It starts in the inner lining and spreads to the outer layers. In general, individuals who are between the ages of 45 and 70 have the highest risk of esophageal cancer. Men have a higher risk than women to develop esophageal cancer. Symptoms include hoarseness, trouble swallowing, and a chronic cough. In order to determine esophageal cancer, tests, and a biopsy—a sample of an esophagus cell—are taken to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. Individuals who smoke, use tobacco, and drink alcohol have a higher risk of getting esophageal cancer. 

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The major risk factors include diabetes, obesity, and tobacco smoking. Research shows that smokeless tobacco is a possible risk factor for pancreatic cancer but the association between cancer and the use of smokeless tobacco is unknown.

Some of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer include pain in the back and abdomen, nausea and vomiting, weight loss and poor appetite, and jaundice—or the yellowing of the eyes and skin. Imaging tests, blood tests, and/or a biopsy are usually conducted to determine whether or not a
patient has pancreatic cancer. 

Other Health Risks

Other health risks of smokeless tobacco includes tooth decay, gum disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. 

A Word From Verywell

Regular use of tobacco can cause harm to your overall health. As some people use smokeless tobacco recreationally, it is also addictive. Regular tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco, can lead to consequences for your life, health, and loved ones. It is important to think long-term when it comes to your health. Choosing healthy habits such as diet, exercise, and avoiding habits that can cause health issues are important. If you or a loved one needs help with an addiction or substance abuse, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional or organization that can give adequate help.

Was this page helpful?
14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mishra A, Chaturvedi P, Datta S, Sinukumar S, Joshi P, Garg A. Harmful effects of nicotineIndian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2015;36(1):24-31. doi:10.4103/0971-5851.151771

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dip, chew, snuff, snus: "Smokeless" doesn't mean "safe". Updated May 16, 2019.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smokeless tobacco: products and marketing. Updated May 18, 2020.

  4. Stanford Medicine. Smokeless tobacco myths.

  5. Janbaz K, Qadir M, Basser H, Bokhari T, Ahmad B. Risk for oral cancer from smokeless tobacco. Contemporary Oncology/Współczesna Onkologia. 2014;18(3):160-164. doi:10.5114/wo.2014.4052

  6. Warnakulasuriya S, Straif K. Carcinogenicity of smokeless tobacco: Evidence from studies in humans & experimental animals. Indian J Med Res. 2018;148(6):681-686. doi:10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_149_18

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Oral cancer: prevention.

  8. John Hopkins Medicine. Oral cancer and tobacco.

  9. Cleveland Clinic. Oral cancer.

  10. National Cancer Institute. Esophegal cancer prevention (PDQ®)–patient version. Updated April 22, 2020.

  11. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for pancreatic cancer. Updated January 8, 2020.

  12. Burkey MD, Feirman S, Wang H, Choudhury SR, Grover S, Johnston FM. The association between smokeless tobacco use and pancreatic adenocarcinoma: a systematic review. Cancer Epidemiol. 2014;38(6):647-653. doi:10.1016/j.canep.2014.08.010

  13. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Updated February 11, 2019.

  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smokeless tobacco: Health facts. 2020