Increasing use of tobacco and its related health problems are a great concern in the world. Recent epidemiological findings have demonstrated the positive association between cigarette smoking and several gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, including peptic ulcer and cancers. Interestingly, smoking also modifies the disease course of ulcerative colitis (UC). Nicotine, a major component of cigarette smoke, seems to mediate some of the actions of cigarette smoking on the pathogenesis of GI disorders. Nicotine worsens the detrimental effects of aggressive factors and attenuates the protective actions of defensive factors in the processes of development and repair of gastric ulceration. Nicotine also takes part in the initiation and promotion of carcinogenesis in the GI tract. In this regard, nicotine and its metabolites are found to be mutagenic and have the ability to modulate cell proliferation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis during tumoriogenesis through specific receptors and signalling pathways. However, to elucidate this complex pathogenic mechanism, further study at the molecular level is warranted. In contrast, findings of clinical trials give promising results on the use of nicotine as an adjuvant therapy for UC. The beneficial effect of nicotine on UC seems to be mediated through multiple mechanisms. More clinical studies are needed to establish the therapeutic value of nicotine in this disease.
The Japanese Pharmacological Society 2004