Lung cancer risk assessment by breath acetonitrile

FB Bodrogi, MB a, PB Lirk, MB a, H Raifer, BSc a, A Amann, PhD a, JW Rieder, MD a

a Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Tyrol Austria

AIM Smoking is the single most important risk factor for morbidity and mortality. Acetonitrile has been described as a potential marker of smoking and passive smoking. Its physical properties, including a long residence time within the body, make it theoretically suited for risk factor screening. Elevated levels of acetonitrile in blood of smokers have been previously described. Exhalation is one major pathway of acetonitrile excretion. It was the aim of the present study to evaluate whether acetonitrile is present in exhaled breath of smokers as compared to passive smokers and non-smokers. METHODS Breath samples were collected from 18 smokers, 5 passive smokers and 14 non-smokers into tedlar bags (SKC Inc.). Proton Transfer Reaction-Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) was employed to detect acetonitrile in human urine as previously described. RESULTS Mean levels of acetonitrile were 52.0 parts per billion (ppbv), 13.7 ppbv and 6.1 ppbv in smokers, passive smokers and non-smokers, respectively. Breath acetonitrile levels of smokers were significantly higher than levels of passive smokers. CONCLUSION Significantly elevated levels of acetonitrile were observed in human exhaled breath in smokers. Breath acetonitrile may serve as a quick, non-invasive, screening marker of smoking and passive smoking.

KEY WORDS: Breath acetonitrile concentrations, Proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometry (PTR-MS), breath analysis , smoking, passive smoking.

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Paper presented at the International Symposium on Predictive Oncology and Intervention Strategies; Paris, France; February 9 - 12, 2002; in the section on Risk Assessment, Part 1.