Nowadays, there are constantly media reports talking about the great benefits that marijuana consumption can have in the treatment of a multitude of medical conditions. However, a question that a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the scene are asking is if there is any link between the smoking of cannabis and lung cancer. This is, of course, partly because the world has known for many years about the link that exists between lung cancer and smoking tobacco.
What do the studies say about this issue?
In a nutshell, the answer has to be maybe. There have not been enough studies conducted to conclusively say one way or another if there is a link between marijuana and cancer. There was a breakthrough study released back in 2006 which left a lot of people in the medical world shocked, because data showcased that there was no rise in the chance of a person contracting lung cancer when they had been regularly using marijuana. Further than that, there were even some indications that cannabis use could actually help protect the body against the development of cancer.
But there have also been some studies in recent years that show there may be somewhat of a link between the smoking of marijuana and lung cancer, but it is certainly not definitive.
There was a study that looked at people who regularly smoked tobacco and people who smoked marijuana. The results showcased that the risk of developing lung cancer was double in tobacco smokers when compared to people who were only using marijuana.
Other research has showcased that using cannabis in the long run could lead to a higher chance of young adults developing lung cancer, partially in proportion to the amount of cannabis that they had smoked.
But then, a 2015 global study showcased that there was, in fact, little to no link between lung cancer and using cannabis in the long run.
The Journal of Thoracic Oncology published a study in 2018 that talked about how it is difficult to make any association between the consumption of marijuana and the development of lung cancer. They even showed support for the use of marijuana to help treat some of the symptoms which people who are suffering from cancer have to deal with on a daily basis. Therefore, it appears that the current research on the topic is very conflicting and that there is no clear indication either way as to what is the correct story.
How does smoking cannabis affect the lungs?
There is, of course, a lot of research out there which shows the links between smoking tobacco and the increased chance of developing lung cancer. There has also been research that showcases how the regular smoking of marijuana can lead to the airways being damaged, which can be shown through the use of a microscope.
Also, there can potentially be issues with other types of respiratory problems, including the likes of short breath and constant coughing. As a whole, it does not appear that the regular smoking of marijuana is going to cause major alterations in the functioning of the lungs nor increase the chance of developing COPD, which is one of the risk factors associated with lung cancer.
Some research has been looking at the success of lung transplants and how the lungs which have been exposed to marijuana perform over time. There was no change observed in the effectiveness of the lungs transplant.
There are of course some drawbacks to the research process when it comes to trying to find a link between the regular smoking of cannabis and cancer. This is largely due to marijuana consumption still being illegal in a lot of areas, unless it is for medical purposes. Most of the studies looking at long term effects are going require people to be relatively healthy when the study starts, so that the results are not affected by existing medical conditions.
Therefore, it is usually not suitable to include those who consume medical marijuana in these studies, unless it is looking at the effects experienced by people with this given condition. Tobacco has been widely available for decades and this has allowed comprehensive studies to be conducted, but the same cannot be said for marijuana studies.
This is why a lot of leaps have to be taken when trying to make a calculated opinion as to whether or not there is a link between smoking weed and cancer. There are some key points which may indicate that some sort of link does in fact exist. For example, there are certain carcinogens, as well as co-carcinogens, that are found both in tobacco smoke and smoke which comes from cannabis consumption.
There is damage to cells and inflammation caused through smoking marijuana, and there are indications of lung tissue experiencing pre-cancerous changes. There have also been issues noticed regarding immune system function and smoking marijuana, which may be a risk factor towards developing cancer down the line.
The bottom line seems to be that there may be somewhat of an increased risk in developing lung cancer when you regularly smoke marijuana, but it is likely that this risk is nowhere near as high as what is seen with cigarettes and tobacco consumption. Until more comprehensive studies are conducted looking at the long-term effects of smoking marijuana, it could mean that people should be cautious. There may even be numerous different types of cancer that could be accelerated by the regular smoking of cannabis, not just lung cancer.
Treatment option for cancer sufferers?
Of course, there have been some studies which showcase that cannabis can actually help those suffering with cancer, so this can be somewhat confusing for people. The main issue regarding the link between smoking marijuana and cancer is related to the causal factors of developing this illness.
There are those who believe that regular cannabis consumption helps to prevent the development of cancer. It has been shown that cannabis consumption can help cancer sufferers to deal with their symptoms, particularly with chronic pain relief. It can help to alleviate the side effects that many cancer treatments create, including sleep issues, pain, appetite loss and nausea. Therefore, there are two sides to this story.