Does marijuana abuse cause lung cancer? As more states in the United States legalize marijuana, many people are focusing on overall health impacts. Tobacco causes lung cancer, and people assume marijuana will be the same. The reality is more complex, with various studies showing no direct link between marijuana and lung cancer. Some studies show potentially adverse outcomes from abuse. Here is some of the available research to help you determine if smoking marijuana will increase your lung cancer risk.
Does Marijuana Abuse Cause Lung Cancer? The Evidence So Far
Many marijuana smokers also smoke cigarettes, and this causes problems for researchers. The studies below were adjusted to show increased lung cancer risk from smoking tobacco.
A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Cancer indicated there was no increase in lung cancer risk for marijuana smokers. The research looked at 2,159 people with lung cancer and 2,985 control subjects. After adjusting the results for tobacco use and social demographic factors, there was no evidence for increased lung cancer risk from smoking cannabis.
Another study in the same year looked at 1,212 lung cancer patients and 1,040 controls. It found that lung cancer cannot be associated with long-term marijuana use or the association is so weak it is difficult to detect.
Exposure to More Tar Than if Smoking Cigarettes
Studies show that some of the components in marijuana smoke are known carcinogens. One meta-study mentions the potential risk of tar in marijuana smoke as a mediator for lung carcinogenic, which means the tar can help genetic mutations form in the lungs that may later lead to lung cancer. Marijuana smokers hold the smoke in their lungs for more extended periods. Therefore, they inhale more tar than they would if smoking cigarettes.
Marijuana smoke also contains benzopyrene, a carcinogen hydrocarbon found in cigarette smoke, according to the meta-study. Researchers also mention in vitro studies showing THC can induce malignant cell proliferation. Ultimately, the meta-study concluded that more research was required to determine what role marijuana smoke plays in the development of lung cancer.
A more recent study from 2013 declared that marijuana smoking only poses a “relatively small” risk to the lungs. Dr. Tashkin highlights the increase in symptoms of chronic bronchitis for marijuana smokers. Alternatively, he found that the consumption of marijuana alone did not lead to lung abnormalities. The paper does mention the fact that marijuana contains known carcinogens and co-carcinogens. It is also less optimistic about the outcomes for the long term, heavy users of marijuana.
Dangers of Smoking Marijuana and Cigarettes
There is some evidence that smoking both cigarettes and marijuana at the same time can increase lung cancer risk, more than smoking cigarettes on their own. Based on this research, it is healthier to be a smoker than it is to be both a smoker and a cannabis user.
So, does marijuana abuse cause lung cancer? There is no definitive link between smoking marijuana and increased lung cancer risk at this point in research. However, there are worrying signs like the presence of tar and some carcinogenic compounds in marijuana smoke. Obviously, you should avoid tobacco, especially if you smoke marijuana.
If you’re still left wondering “Does marijuana abuse cause lung cancer?,” give us a call today at our toll-free number and one of our professional counselors will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
cebp.aacrjournals.org – Marijuana Use and the Risk of Lung and Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancers: Results of a Population-Based Case-Control Study
archinte.jamanetwork.com – Association Between Marijuana Smoking and Lung Cancer
atsjournals.org – Effects of Marijuana Smoking on the Lung