What in Chewing Tobacco Causes Cancer? Plus, Early Signs of Mouth Cancer to Watch Out For

What in Chewing Tobacco Causes Cancer?

On every can of dip you buy, you’ll see a warning label that lets you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. So, it shouldn’t come as a shock when eventually, you show the early signs of mouth cancer from chewing tobacco. You probably do your best to ignore that label…because ignorance is bliss, right?

Well, we’re here today to help you snap out of it and fully understand the chewing tobacco cancer risk. In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions circulating around this topic: does chewing tobacco cause cancer? And if so, what in chewing tobacco causes cancer?

After explaining how chewing tobacco causes cancer, we’ll highlight a few early signs of mouth cancer from chewing tobacco to watch out for. We’ll also provide you with some advice on kicking the habit for good so you can enjoy peace of mind. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s not waste any time.

Does Chewing Tobacco Cause Cancer? Explaining the Likelihood of Getting Cancer From Chewing Tobacco

Does chewing tobacco cause cancer? The short answer is yes. Chewing tobacco does cause cancer. 

And while you are probably here specifically to learn about oral cancer, that’s just one type to be concerned about. There are also studies showing a link between smokeless tobacco and esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, lung cancer, nasal cancer, and pharyngeal cancer.

Now, that’s not to say that everyone who dips is going to develop cancer. Chances are, you know someone who regularly uses tobacco products - whether it be cigarettes or chewing tobacco - and somehow doesn’t have cancer.

There are always going to be cases of individuals who get lucky and somehow avoid cancer despite their poor life chances. But it's a numbers game regarding your likelihood of getting cancer from chewing tobacco. The more frequently you dip and the longer you are addicted, the more elevated your risk of developing certain cancers is. It’s as simple as that.

How Long Does it Take to Get Cancer From Chewing Tobacco?

Once you know that there is a likelihood of getting cancer from chewing tobacco, your next question is - how long does it take to get cancer from chewing tobacco? And as you can imagine, the answer is the same as the question of how many dips it takes to get addicted. There isn’t a definitive answer.

Did you have a single dip at a party one time? You’re probably not going to get cancer. Now - have you been chewing tobacco for years, going through a few cans a week? Chances are, you’re on the fast track to some form of oral cancer - if not one of the others we discussed above. 

Research has shown that the longer a person uses chewing tobacco, the greater their risk of developing cancer. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, people who use chewing tobacco or snuff for a long period of time (like 30 years or more) have a higher risk of developing cancer than those who use it for a shorter period of time.

In addition, the type of cancer that develops can also impact the length of time it takes to develop. For example, some studies suggest that oral cancer can develop within five years of regular tobacco use, while others suggest that it can take up to 30 years to develop.

It's important to note that the risk of cancer does not go away even if a person stops using tobacco, either. According to the National Cancer Institute, people who quit using tobacco have a lower risk of cancer than those who continue to use tobacco, but their risk is still higher than people who have never used tobacco.

With that said, how does chewing tobacco cause cancer? What is in it that creates this risk? Find out below as we uncover all the major carcinogens in smokeless tobacco products.

What in Chewing Tobacco Causes Cancer? Assessing Common Carcinogens in Dip

Many individuals are curious about what in chewing tobacco causes cancer. But it’s not just one compound. There are actually 28 different carcinogens in smokeless tobacco, each of which is linked to one or multiple cancers.

Some of these carcinogens exist within the tobacco plant itself naturally. Others arise from the cultivation or manufacturing process as companies sacrifice your health for profits - using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or curing processes. Here are all the compounds that are responsible for chewing tobacco’s relationship to cancer:

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Acetamide
  • Acrylonitrile
  • Aniline
  • Benzene
  • Benzo[a]pyrene
  • Cadmium
  • 1,3-Butadiene
  • Chromium
  • Cresol
  • Crotonaldehyde
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead
  • N'-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN)
  • N'-Nitrosoanatabine (NAT)
  • N'-Nitrosoanabasine (NAB)
  • N'-Nitrosoatabine (NA)
  • N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
  • N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA)
  • Nickel
  • Polonium-210
  • Propylene oxide
  • Pyridine
  • Quinoline
  • Styrene
  • Toluene
  • Uranium-235
  • Vinyl chloride

However, we want to take the time to unpack a few of these in particular that are particularly problematic. This will help you gain a better understanding of how chewing tobacco causes cancer. Let’s start with Polonium-210.


This radioactive element is found naturally in tobacco plants and is known to accumulate in the body's tissues. Polonium-210 emits alpha particles that can damage the DNA in lungs, liver, and bone marrow cells, leading to cancer development. This compound is of particular concern for smokeless tobacco users who can ingest higher amounts of polonium-210 compared to smokers.


These chemicals are created during the processing of tobacco and are formed when nitrate compounds in the tobacco are broken down by bacteria. Nitrosamines are potent carcinogens and are associated with cancers of the liver, lung, pancreas, and bladder. The highest levels of nitrosamines are found in smokeless tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco.


This chemical is used to preserve tobacco after harvesting to maintain the nicotine concentration. It can cause cancer of the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat behind the nose), as well as leukemia. Formaldehyde is produced when the tobacco is burned or chewed and can react with other chemicals to form other carcinogens, such as nitrosamines. Together, these create a deadly duo for dippers.


Tobacco is perhaps the most heavily treated crop, and thus the fields in which it’s grown are highly concentrated in not just heavy metals like Cadmium, but many others - a few of which we’ll talk about below. Cadmium is associated with lung, prostate, and kidney cancer. It’s believed to promote tumor growth by binding to DNA and interfering with the body's ability to repair damaged DNA.


This poisonous metal is used as a pesticide on tobacco plants, as farmers try to prevent any crop losses from cutting into their profits. And as you can imagine, they do this at the cost of your health. Arsenic is a potent carcinogen associated with lung, skin, bladder, kidney, and liver cancer. Long-term exposure to arsenic can cause genetic damage that can lead to the development of cancer.


This chemical is produced when tobacco is burned or chewed and is associated with cancers of the mouth and throat. Acetaldehyde reacts with DNA to form compounds that damage the genetic material and increase the risk of cancer. Acetaldehyde is also believed to promote the growth and spread of cancer cells by interfering with the body's natural mechanisms that regulate cell growth.

Early Signs of Mouth Cancer From Chewing Tobacco to Watch Out For

Now that you know what in chewing tobacco causes cancer, you can start to get a sense of just how unavoidable cancer is for habitual dippers. If you’ve already formed this habit yourself, you probably want to learn the early signs of mouth cancer from chewing tobacco so you can rule out the possibility yourself. Here are some of the warning signs to watch out for:

  • White or red patches in the mouth: These patches can be a sign of leukoplakia or erythroplakia, which are precancerous conditions that can develop into mouth cancer. If you notice any abnormal patches in your mouth that do not go away after a week or two, it's important to see a dentist or doctor. These aren’t cancer yet - but they will transform into cancer if not addressed.
  • Sore or ulcer in the mouth: If you have a sore or ulcer in your mouth that does not heal within two weeks, it could be a sign of mouth cancer. This sore may be painful and can make it difficult to eat or speak.
  • Lump or thickening in the mouth: If you notice a lump or thickening in your mouth or throat, it could be a sign of cancer. More specifically, it may be a tumor. This lump may be painless or may cause discomfort when swallowing or speaking. 
  • Persistent bad breath: Chewing tobacco can cause bad breath, but if your bad breath persists even after brushing and flossing, it could be a sign of mouth cancer. Cancer can cause a foul odor in the mouth due to the breakdown of tissue.

If you notice any of these early signs of mouth cancer from chewing tobacco, it's important to see a dentist or doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of mouth cancer can increase the chances of successful treatment and recovery. 

But more than that, you should take steps to eliminate your dipping habit - even if you don’t show any of the early signs of mouth cancer from chewing tobacco. And that’s something we can help you with.

Want to Offset Your Risk of Developing Cancer From Chewing Tobacco?

We didn’t write this article on how chewing tobacco causes cancer with the goal of scaring you and causing stress & anxiety. Rather, we want to help you understand just how great the likelihood of getting cancer from chewing tobacco is. And we’re not just here to evoke fear in you. Below, we’re going to wrap things up by providing you with actionable next steps to offset your likelihood of getting cancer from chewing tobacco.

Our complete guide on how to quit dipping for good has helped people like you kick the habit, and it can do the same for you. In that resource, you’ll discover what happens when you quit dipping so you can be fully prepared for the chewing tobacco withdrawal symptoms. And, you’ll also be given step-by-step advice on making your dip habit a thing of the past, along with advice on flushing nicotine out of your body.

One of the best pieces of advice in that resource is to find a healthy dip replacement - this will not only help you keep the cravings at bay (which are the hardest part of quitting). But, it will help you cope with some of the withdrawal symptoms that make addiction so challenging: fatigue, irritability, etc.

And here at Grinds, we’ve created the most natural, effective chewing tobacco alternatives to help you set off on this journey on the right foot. 

Instead of nicotine, our pouches contain a natural dose of caffeine which gives you the energy & focus that may have had you interested in dipping in the first place. This makes it easier to get stuff done and be your most productive self, even if you’re battling nicotine withdrawals! And because you’re still simulating the experience of dipping and getting that little caffeine rush, you’ll find yourself forgetting about dip in no time.

We have so many flavors to choose from so you never get bored. From traditional dip flavors like wintergreen, spearmint, and more to coffee, fruit, and baked goods, there is truly something for everyone at Grinds. Get your nicotine and tobacco-free dip today! 

Final Thoughts on What in Chewing Tobacco Causes Cancer

At this point, it’s time to bring our conversation on what in chewing tobacco causes cancer to a close. We hope you have a better understanding of the true implications of a dipping habit after reading this guide. 

While the likelihood of getting cancer from chewing tobacco isn’t something we can attach a tangible number to, your risk rises the more often you dip and the longer you go before quitting. We’ve covered all the known carcinogens in dip along with the early signs of mouth cancer from chewing tobacco.

And now that you know how chewing tobacco causes cancer, there’s just one thing left to do: read our guide on how to stop dipping and get your caffeine pouches today. Don’t be another statistic in the fight against big tobacco - kick the habit for good!