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Does Vaping Cause Lung Cancer? Exploring the Connection Between the Two

April 11, 2023
Young woman vaping with electronic cigarette

Electronic cigarettes and vapes offer users nicotine without the dangerous smoke and tar of regular cigarettes. Therefore, many people believe they are safer. While vaping may seem like a healthier alternative to traditional smoking, those who smoke with such devices should be aware that they also come with their own hazards.

One of the biggest concerns with vaping is lung health, which leads many to wonder if there’s a correlation between vaping and lung cancer. The award-winning team at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island, New York, provides a wide range of comprehensive cancer care, including lung cancer treatment. Here, we explore the possible connection between vaping and lung cancer and what vape users need to know.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping devices operate on batteries and heat nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. The action of vaping gets its name from the devices turning these substances into vapor, allowing the user to breathe them in like they would with a regular cigarette. There are several devices on the market with varying degrees of nicotine in them. The sale of e-cigarettes and vape devices is prohibited to anyone under the age of 21 (or under age 18 if a military member or veteran).

Does Vaping Cause Lung Cancer?

As vaping becomes more common among adults and teenagers, parents and other concerned individuals wonder what kind of effect it will have on the lungs, with lung cancer serving as the most significant consideration.

Many of the chemicals the vapor produces are associated with cancer, including formaldehyde, diacetyl, acrolein, heavy metals, and other particles that can get stuck in the deepest parts of the lungs. However, it is difficult to know just how much of these chemicals users breathe in when they vape. Additionally, not enough research has been conducted to determine whether lung cancer is a direct side effect of vaping.

What Is Known About Vaping and the Lungs

While the relationship between vaping and lung cancer remains unclear, there is evidence to suggest vaping can lead to other health concerns that impact the lungs. For example, vaping can be associated with the following lung-related health issues:

Popcorn Lung

Another name for bronchiolitis obliterans, popcorn lung is a rare condition that involves damage to the small airways of the lungs. Known to be a culprit of the condition, diacetyl is an organic compound frequently added to flavored e-liquid to enhance the taste of vaping. Inhaling this substance can cause inflammation and may lead to permanent scarring in the smallest branches of the airways, making breathing difficult. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Lipoid Pneumonia

Lipoid pneumonia develops when fatty acids enter the lungs, differentiating it from classic pneumonia which is caused by infection. Inhaling oily substances found in e-liquid can increase the risk of developing vaping-related lipoid pneumonia. Symptoms of this medical condition include:

  • Coughing up blood or blood-tinged mucus
  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath

Collapsed Lung

Also referred to as primary spontaneous pneumothorax, a collapsed lung occurs when there is a hole in the lung, which allows oxygen to escape. Advanced cases of a collapsed lung may require extensive treatment, such as a chest tube to drain leaked oxygen from the body cavity or surgery to repair the hole in the lung. Signs of a collapsed lung include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sharp chest or shoulder pain

Discuss Lung Health at Richmond University Medical Center

The most effective avenue to treating any form of cancer is early detection. Patients showing symptoms of lung cancer or other lung-related illnesses can receive comprehensive care from the medical team at Richmond University Medical Center. Serving patients across Staten Island, New York, our physicians offer lung screenings and advanced lung cancer treatment.

For more information about the correlation between vaping and lung health or to schedule an appointment with our board-certified oncology team, contact us today.