Tobacco smoking is the primary risk factor for lung cancer, driven by the addictive nature of nicotine and the indisputable carcinogenicity of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) as well as other compounds. The integration of lung cancer chemoprevention with smoking cessation is one potential approach to reduce this risk and mitigate lung cancer mortality. Experimental data from our group suggest that kava, commonly consumed in the South Pacific Islands as a beverage to promote relaxation, may reduce lung cancer risk by enhancing NNK detoxification and reducing NNK-derived DNA damage. Building upon these observations, we conducted a pilot clinical trial to evaluate the effects of a 7-day course of kava on NNK metabolism in active smokers. The primary objective was to compare urinary total 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL plus its glucuronides, major metabolites of NNK) before and after kava administration as an indicator of NNK detoxification. Secondary objectives included determining kava's safety, its effects on DNA damage, tobacco use, and cortisol (a biomarker of stress). Kava increased urinary excretion of total NNAL and reduced urinary 3-methyladenine in participants, suggestive of its ability to reduce the carcinogenicity of NNK. Kava also reduced urinary total nicotine equivalents, indicative of its potential to facilitate tobacco cessation. Plasma cortisol and urinary total cortisol equivalents were reduced upon kava use, which may contribute to reductions in tobacco use. These results demonstrate the potential of kava intake to reduce lung cancer risk among smokers.
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