Context: One approach to reducing the harm caused by cigarette smoking, at both individual and population level, is to develop, assess and commercialize modified risk alternatives that adult smokers can switch to. Studies to demonstrate the exposure and risk reduction potential of such products generally involve the measuring of biomarkers, of both exposure and effect, sampled in various biological matrices. Objective: In this review, we detail the pros and cons for using several biomarkers as indicators of effects of changing from conventional cigarettes to modified risk products. Materials and methods: English language publications between 2008 and 2017 were retrieved from PubMed using the same search criteria for each of the 25 assessed biomarkers. Nine exclusion criteria were applied to exclude non-relevant publications. Results: A total of 8876 articles were retrieved (of which 7476 were excluded according to the exclusion criteria). The literature indicates that not all assessed biomarkers return to baseline levels following smoking cessation during the study periods but that nine had potential for use in medium to long-term studies. Discussion and conclusion: In clinical studies, it is important to choose biomarkers that show the biological effect of cessation within the duration of the study.