Does weed cause lung cancer?

We don’t know if weed causes lung cancer yet. But marijuana use and cancer risk are associated. Learn more about lung cancer and marijuana here.

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Maybe. But right now we do not know precisely if marijuana causes lung cancer, or not.

In fact, some studies offer different conclusions about the relationship between marijuana and cancer. One study indicates that long-term cannabis use increases the risk of lung cancer in young adults. While other studies suggest that the association of cancer with marijuana, even long-term or heavy use, is not strong and may be below practically detectable limits. Read on to learn more about the carcinogenic properties of marijuana and how marijuana impacts the lungs. And PLEASE ask your questions about marijuana use below. We’ll be happy to respond to them!

Is marijuana carcinogenic?

Yes, marijuana is carcinogenic (has the potential to cause cancer). In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50 – 70% more cancer causing compounds than tobacco smoke. And because marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, they increase their lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke.

So doesn’t that mean that marijuana can cause lung cancer?

Well, the short answer is maybe. Marijuana CAN cause lung cancer. But smoking weed (even daily) has not yet been associated directly with the development and outcome of lung cancer. In other words, not enough people who smoke marijuana have developed lung cancer in order for experts to define the relationship as causal. Although we know that marijuana affects the immune system, the implications for its impact on cancer are unclear.

How marijuana affects the lungs

WE DO KNOW that marijuana affects the brain and that memory loss smoking weed is common. But how does marijuana smoke affect the lungs? Simply, marijuana smoke irritates the lungs. In fact, smoking marijuana increases the risk of respiratory problems. This is because as you smoke and inhale weed into your lungs, you also inhale carcinogens and other toxins. A recent study reported that people who smoke marijuana frequently (but not tobacco) have more health problems and miss more days of work than nonsmokers. Many extra sick days among marijuana smokers are for respiratory illnesses. Repeated exposure to marijuana smoke can lead to a number of medical conditions such as:

  • excess phlegm production
  • lung infections
  • more frequent acute chest illnesses
  • repetitive, chronic cough

Tobacco (in your spliff) and lung cancer risk

If you smoke weed and add tobacco to your spliff, you are at increased risk of developing lung cancer. The fact is that many people who smoke marijuana also smoke cigarettes and cigarettes DO cause cancer. In fact, cases of lung cancers are often more likely than controls to have smoked cigarettes and to have used alcohol heavily in addition to smoking pot. So, although lung cancer cannot be linked to marijuana per se, cigarettes can. And if you are rolling your joint with tobacco, this tobacco can cause lung cancer.

Why you should avoid smoking marijuana

Is weed good for headaches and other medical conditions? Yes. Marijuana can actually be helpful and is prescribed for a number of different medical conditions ranging from glaucoma to cancer treatment. This is why some experts recommend that you avoid smoking marijuana for medical purposes, and instead use synthetic THC compounds that you take orally for the therapeutic potential of pain relief, nausea control, appetite stimulation, and decreasing ocular pressure.

Questions about smoking marijuana

Studies HAVE NOT YET found an increased risk of lung cancer in marijuana smokers, as compared with nonsmokers. But smoking marijuana can impact your health for the worse. Do you have a question about smoking marijuana and your health? Please leave it below. We answer all questions personally and may even respond by writing a new article!

Reference sources: Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know from NIDA
Marijuana Use and the Risk of Lung Cancer
and Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancers: Results of a Population-Based Case-Control Study
Womens Health [dot] gov on How To Quit Smoking Marijuana
American Lung Association  publication on”Hazards of Smoking Marijuana”
NIDA Info Facts on Marijuana
Cannabis use and risk of lung cancer: a case-control study
Epidemiologic review of marijuana use and cancer risk
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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