Autofluorescence (AF) bronchoscopy is a useful tool for early cancer detection. However, the mechanisms involved in this diagnosis procedure are poorly understood. We present a clinical autofluorescence imaging study to assess the depth of the principal contrast mechanisms within the bronchial tissue comparing a narrowband (superficial) and broadband (penetrating) violet excitation. Knowledge of this parameter is crucial for the optimization of the spectral and optical design of clinical diagnostic AF imaging devices. An intensity contrast improvement was observed with the narrowband excitation, suggesting that the heme absorption plays a key role in the AF contrast mechanism.