Irina Stepanov PhD » Faculty

Research Interests:Tobacco carcinogenesis; tobacco regulatory science; biomarker development and application; oxidative stress and inflammation; individual susceptibility to chemical exposure-induced diseases; global research capacity building.

Associate Professor, Environmental Health Sciences

Address Division of Environmental Health Sciences 420 Delaware St SE MMC 807 Minneapolis MN 55454 Work Phone: 612-624-4998
Photo of Irina Stepanov PhD


Dr. Stepanov received her Ph.D. in chemistry from Moldova State University (Republic of Moldova), and completed postdoctoral training in analytical biochemistry in the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.  Her research program is focused on biochemical characterization of the links between human exposure to chemical carcinogens and health outcomes, with the particular focus on tobacco carcinogenesis and the mechanisms underlying inter‐individual differences in cancer risk due to tobacco use.  Dr. Stepanov collaborates with medical doctors, behavioral scientists, surveillance specialists, epidemiologists, educators, and tobacco control experts nationally and internationally to address the complex issues of tobacco use, related exposures, and health outcomes.

  • Ph.D., Chemistry, Moldova State University, Republic of Moldova, 2002
  • B.S., Chemistry, Moldova State University, Republic of Moldova, 1997


Analytical biochemistry, tobacco chemistry, tobacco carcinogenesis, carcinogen exposure and metabolism, biomarker development, DNA adducts, mass-spectrometry.


PubH 6162 Biomarkers

Professional Experience:

  • 2016 – Present: Associate Professor, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
  • 2011-2016: Assistant Professor, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
  • 2005-2011: Research Associate, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota
  • 2003-2005: Postdoctoral Associate, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota
  • 1998-2003: Research Assistant, Department of Industrial and Ecological Chemistry, Moldova State University


  • Delta Omega Public Health Honorary Society (2013)
  • U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation and Moldovan Research and Development Foundation, Long Term Travel Fellowship for Young Investigators (2003)
  • The Government of Moldova, State Prize for Young Investigators in the Field of Science and Technology (2002)
  • American Chemical Society-Central European Environmental Chemistry Program, Travel and Research Fellowship (2001)


Selected Publications:

  • Stepanov I, Abrams J, Jain V, Walter K, Kittner DL. (2016) Variations of toxic and carcinogenic constituents in nasvai: Call for systematic research and regulation. Tobacco Control. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2016-052951. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Yershova K, Yuan JM, Wang R, Valentin L, Watson C, Gao YT, Hecht SS, Stepanov I. (2016) Tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in cigarettes smoked by the participants of the Shanghai Cohort Study. International Journal of Cancer. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30178. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Ma B, Jing M, Villalta PW, Kapphahn RJ, Montezuma SR, Ferrington DA, Stepanov I. (2016) Simultaneous determination of 8-oxo-2’-deoxyguanosine and 8-oxo-2’-deoxyadenosine in human retinal DNA by liquid chromatography nanoelectrospray-tandem mass spectrometry. Scientific Reports | 6:22375 | DOI: 10.1038/srep22375
  • Hecht SS, Stepanov I, and Carmella SG. (2016) Exposure and metabolic activation biomarkers of carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines. Acc. Chem. Res., 49, 106−114. DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.5b00472
  • Yuan JM, Stepanov I, Murphy SE, Wang R, Allen S, Jensen J, Strayer L, et al. (2016) Clinical Trial of 2-Phenethyl Isothiocyanate as an Inhibitor of Metabolic Activation of a Tobacco-Specific Lung Carcinogen in Cigarette Smokers. Cancer Prevention Research [Online First] DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-15-0380
  • Stepanov I, Hatsukami D. (2016) Call to establish constituent standards for smokeless tobacco products. Tobacco Regulatory Science, 2(1):9-30. DOI:
  • Stepanov I, Soeteman-Hernández LG, Talhout R. (2015) Research and monitoring the evolution of new tobacco products, including products with potentially “modified risks”. In: Report on the Scientific Basis of Tobacco Product Regulations: Fifth Report of a WHO Study Group. WHO Technical report series 989; pp 91-161. WHO Press, World Health Organization 2015
  • Hatsukami D, Stepanov I, Severson H, Jensen J, Lindgren B, Horn K, Khariwala S, Martin J, Carmella S, Murphy S, Hecht SS. (2015) Evidence supporting product standards for carcinogens in smokeless tobacco products. Cancer Prevention Research, 8(1):20-6, DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0250.
  • Borgida E, Loken B, Williams AL, Vitriol J, Stepanov I, Hatsukami D. (2015) Assessing constituent levels in smokeless tobacco products: A new approach to engaging and educating the public. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 17(11):1354-61. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntv007
  • Stepanov I, Gupta PC, Dhumal G, Yershova K, Toscano W, Hatsukami K, Parascandola M. (2015) High levels of tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines and nicotine in Chaini Khaini, a product marketed as snus. Tobacco Control, 24(e4):e271-4. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051744.
  • Stanfill S, Stepanov I. (2014) Chapter 3: A Global View of Smokeless Tobacco Products. In: Smokeless Tobacco and Public Health: A Global Perspective. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. NIH Publication No. 14‐7983.
  • Stepanov I, Sebero E, Wang R, Gao Y, Hecht SS, Yuan JM. (2014) Tobacco-specific N-nitrosamine exposures and cancer risk in Shanghai Cohort Study: A remarkable coherence with the laboratory animal data. International Journal of Cancer, 134(10):2278-83. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.28575.
  • Stepanov I, Biener L, Yershova K, Nyman AL, Bliss R, Parascandola M, Hatsukami DK. (2014) Monitoring Tobacco-Specific N-Nitrosamines and Nicotine in Novel Smokeless Tobacco Products: Findings from Round II of the New Product Watch. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 16(8):1070-8. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntu026.
  • Ma B, Villalta PW, Balbo S, Stepanov I. (2014) Analysis of a malondialdehyde-deoxyguanosine adduct in human leukocyte DNA by liquid chromatography nanoelectrospray-high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry. Chemical Research in Toxicology,27:1829−1836
  • Jing M, Wang Y, Upadhyaya P, Jain V, Yuan JM, Hatsukami DK, Hecht SS, Stepanov I. (2014) Liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry quantitation of urinary [pyridine‑D4]4-hydroxy-4-(3-pyridyl)butanoic acid, a biomarker of 4‑(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone metabolic activation in smokers. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 27:1547−1555
  • Stepanov I, Muzic J, Le CT, Sebero E, Jensen J, Hatsukami DK, Hecht SS. (2013) Analysis of 4-hydroxy-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (HPB)-releasing DNA adducts in human exfoliated oral mucosa cells by liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry. Chemical Research in Toxicology 26:37−45.