While cotinine is commonly used as a biomarker to validate self-reported smoking status, the selection of an optimal cotinine cutoff value for distinguishing true smokers from true nonsmokers shows a lack of standardization among studies. This review describes how the cutoff values have been derived, and explains the issues involved in the generalization of a cutoff value. In this study, we conducted an English-language literature search in PubMed using the keywords “cotinine” and “cutoff” or “self-reported” and “smoking status” and “validation” for the years 1985–2014. We obtained 104 articles, 32 of which provided (1) sensitivity and specificity of a cutoff value and (2) determination methods for the given cutoff value. We found that the saliva cotinine cutoff value range of 10–25 ng/mL, serum and urine cotinine cutoff of 10–20 ng/mL and 50–200 ng/mL, respectively, have been commonly used to validate self-reported smoking status using a 2 × 2 table or a receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve. We also found that recent large population-based studies in the U.S. and UK reported lower cutoff values for cotinine in serum (3 ng/mL) and saliva (12 ng/mL), compared to the traditionally accepted ones (15 and 14 ng/mg, respectively).
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited