Study Claims Pot Smoking Doesn't Increase Lung Cancer Risk

By John Lavitt 07/22/14

Despite new evidence, the jury is still out on whether or not weed does contribute to causing cancer.

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According to study data published online by the International Journal of Cancer, habitual marijuana smoking is not associated with an increased lung cancer risk.

The study claimed that people who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of contracting lung cancer than those who consume it occasionally or not at all. An international team of investigators from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States analyzed data from six case-control studies involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls) worldwide.

“Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers," the study authors wrote. The findings of the current study are similar to those of a 2013 review published in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society. As reported by Norml, that initial study concluded, “Habitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function…Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.”

At the same time, an accompanying commentary in the ATS Journal revealed the following results as well that play against traditional perspectives of the medical community. “Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or airway cancers. In fact, there is even a suggestion that at low doses cannabis may be protective for both conditions.”

Although the results of the studies in the latest medical journals seem clear, there are still many opposing voices relying on older data. Senator Tom Coburn, who is one of three medical doctors in the U.S. Senate, has claimed that smoking one marijuana cigarette a day for a year increases a person’s risk for lung cancer by 8%. The senator most likely is citing a six-year-old study from New Zealand published in the European Respiratory Journal that found smoking one joint is equivalent to the effect that smoking 20 cigarettes has on the lungs.

Given the results of the above reports and other recent studies, including one from 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that did not detect any damage to the lung’s pulmonary function or instances of lung cancer caused by marijuana use, the jury is still out. With different studies providing divergent opinions and results, the long term cancer risk and health dangers of marijuana smoking may remain uncertain for some time to come.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.