A top New England medical research institute has identified yet another cause of cancer: automobiles. And a consumer group has called on the Department of Transportation to take action to eliminate the newly discovered risks.

The New England Institute for Life Sciences, in a study funded by the National Science Foundation, has found levels of nitrosamines, a carcinogen, in new cars. The institute says car occupants can take in more nitrosamines from riding in the new cars than they would take in from eating bacon, which also has been found to have high levels of nitrosamines.

The study concluded that a person sitting in the average new car for 100 minutes would breathe or absorb about the same amount of nitrosamines that would be consumed in about 10 slices of bacon or 2 1/2 cans of beer, another source of nitrosamines.

Nitrosamines have been called one of the most formidable and versatile groups of carcinogens yet discovered. Their role as an environmental hazard leading to human cancer has caused growing concern among experts and has sparked calls for warning labels or orders for removal of the substance from some consumables.

The study identifies the spare tire, particularly the new collapsible type, as a major source of the nitrosamines, and suspects vinyl interiors as another source.

Luxury cars, with more padded interiors, were found to have higher levels of the substance than less elaborate cars.

The Center for Auto Safety, in a letter to Joan Claybrook, head of DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called on that agency to "move as fast as possible to initiate rulemaking to control sources of nitrosamines in cars."