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Does Smoking Marijuana Increase the Risk of Lung Cancer? What You Need to Know

March 7, 2023
Cannabis plant

The effects of marijuana use on the human body have long been debated, especially concerning its impact on the lungs. While marijuana continues to be legalized in more and more states, health experts still are not exactly sure whether smoking the drug increases the chances of getting lung-related illnesses. Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, New York, specializes in lung cancer treatment and provides patients with routine lung screenings. Here, we explore marijuana and any possible impacts on lung health and what you need to know.

Potential Dangers

There is no denying the danger tobacco smoke has on the lungs. Studies have indicated that marijuana smoke contains many of the same harmful substances as tobacco, and often more of them. Potentially dangerous hazards that are found in both include:

  • Benzo(a)pyrene
  • Benz(a)anthracene
  • Phenols
  • Vinyl chlorides
  • Nitrosamines
  • Reactive oxygen species

Another concerning point is people often use or smoke marijuana in a different way than tobacco, potentially posing a greater threat to the lungs. Marijuana users tend to inhale the drug and hold in the smoke. Smoking marijuana this way allows the toxins in the smoke to make contact with lung tissues, providing the smoke more opportunity to stick there. Furthermore, the tar contained in marijuana can be harmful, raising concerns and the risk of cancer and other lung diseases.

Why Do Questions Remain?

In some studies, when scientists examined the lung tissue of routine marijuana users, they found changes known to signal the growth of cancer in the future. Given that information, why is there still some debate as to whether routine smoking of marijuana contributes to lung cancer?

The reason is conflicting results. As researchers continue to look for a link between lung cancer and marijuana, some evidence suggests a strong connection while other data suggests there is little to no relationship between the two. More so, the topic has been difficult to investigate, limiting the reliability of the research obtained.

Future Research on Marijuana and Lung Cancer

A large portion of research exploring the relationship between marijuana use and lung cancer dates to when the drug was widely illegal, making it even more challenging to gather reliable data. Many studies involved self-reported surveys and asked participants how often they smoked marijuana. The opportunity to conceal how often they smoked rendered the findings potentially inaccurate and difficult to trust.

Today, marijuana continues to become more widely accepted, with legalization occurring in many states. This allows for more research opportunities. The link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer remains somewhat unclear, but the likelihood a more definitive answer is higher as researchers continue their work.

Comprehensive Care at Richmond University Medical Center

Individuals who smoke marijuana and have symptoms of deteriorating lung health, or anyone who wishes to gain more information about the effects of marijuana on the human body, should turn to the medical professionals at Richmond University Medical Center. Located in Staten Island, New York, our award-winning team of physicians possesses the knowledge and expertise to perform advanced services and answer any questions patients may have concerning their health. Contact us or schedule an appointment today to learn more about the relationship between marijuana and lung cancer.