Marijuana and Lung Cancer: Can Smoking Weed Cause Lung Cancer?

Marijuana and Lung Cancer: Can Smoking Weed Cause Lung Cancer?

Marijuana continues to get more acceptance for recreational and therapeutic use. As this is happening, questions on whether its use increases the threat of lung cancer continue to bedevil its use. 

There is a lot that is yet to be known about marijuana. This lack of information causes the uncertainty surrounding its relationship with the body in general and lung cancer in particular. So let’s try to answer the question, “does marijuana cause lung cancer?”  

About Marijuana

Marijuana is a versatile plant that can be used as a recreational drug and as a wellness booster. It can also be used for the management of symptoms in some medical conditions and the reduction of side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The main active elements of cannabis are known as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are of two types, namely tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Over and above the cannabinoids, marijuana studies from 2017 and later show that it contains over 100 known terpenes. Terpenes are a recent discovery, and they have demonstrated considerable potential to enhance the effectiveness of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. 

Before the discovery of terpenes, there was a lot of trial and error because people couldn’t tell what works for which condition and what causes it to work.  This level of uncertainty is likely to have contributed to the regulators’ skepticism about marijuana, but now prescriptions will be more accurate. 

Research on marijuana and how it affects the user’s bodies is still ongoing. From what we know so far, cannabis is a compact plant that has the potential to revolutionize how we take care of our bodies.

There is the other side of the coin, and smoking marijuana is suspected by some to be a cause or a predisposing factor for lung cancer. Please read on to find out more about this.  

Effects of Marijuana Intake Method

The method you use for the intake of cannabis determines the level to which it will be absorbed and the speed of absorption. It is for this reason that carrier oils in CBD oil are so essential because they may determine how well the CBD is absorbed in the body. The best CBD oils are the ones that the body can absorb easily. Other issues like suitable temperature for vaping also determine whether the weed will still be viable when it gets into the body.

Given the importance of intake method, smoking may theoretically be viewed as a good way of quickly getting cannabinoids into the body for both therapeutic and recreational purposes. There, however, is a problem with smoking, keep reading to find out. 

Smoke and Lung Health

Burning any material often leads to the release of carcinogens and other toxins. These are usually contained in the smoke that results from the combustion. This being the case, at the barest minimum, marijuana smoke can be expected to have the same effect as every other smoke. The most common question about marijuana causing cancer is whether it has the same results as tobacco smoke.

Marijuana Smoke and the Risk of Lung Cancer

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There are two vital factors in determining whether marijuana causes lung cancer. Contents of its smoke and how users smoke it. In the marijuana vs. cigarette lung cancer contest, the available information suggests that cigarettes win hands down. While cigarettes win, many people wonder whether marijuana has tar and other carcinogens in tobacco. A comparison of marijuana vs cigarettes shows that the two have some similarities. Some common toxins in them include:

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

And finally, an answer to the two big questions, “does weed have tar? And “is there nicotine in marijuana?” The answer is yes for the first question and no for the second one.  Weed contains the above-mentioned marijuana carcinogens, making lung cancer one of marijuana health risks, but it contains no nicotine.

If you compare tobacco vs marijuana when it comes to irritating the airway, tobacco wins. For this reason, coughing after smoking weed is not as intense as it is after smoking tobacco. Due to this, marijuana smokers typically tend to inhale the smoke more deeply and to hold it in the lungs for longer than tobacco smokers. When a marijuana smoker inhales more deeply than a tobacco smoker, the smoke covers a larger surface area on the lungs. 

Holding the smoke in for longer when smoking cannabis than when smoking tobacco means that they are exposed to toxins in the smoke for longer.  

"Vaping" Marijuana - Lung Health effects

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Another intake method that may be of interest when considering the possible association between lung cancer and marijuana is vaping.  

Although both vaping and smoking deliver marijuana directly to the lungs, there are some differences between them. In the case of smoking, you smoke a dried marijuana leaf. This means that all the contents of marijuana, including all the toxins, get into the lungs. In light of this information, blunts are bad for you, just like joints. 

When it comes to vaping, you vaporize a liquid inside a device known as a vape pen and then inhale it. This liquid is known as the e-liquid or vape oil, and it is processed marijuana. Whether this liquid contains all components of the plant from which it was extracted depends on the extraction method used in its manufacture.

Some extraction methods, such as CO2, produce full-spectrum vape oil. Such oil has all the contents of its source plant, including possible marijuana carcinogens.   

The other extraction method is known as the Isolate Method. Through this method, a specific element in the plant, such as CBD or a particular terpene, is extracted. The vape oil produced contains only that element and none of the toxins.

What Does Research Say about Medical Marijuana and Lung Cancer?

Research on the relationship between cannabis and lung cancer has not been widely done. The question of whether marijuana causes lung cancer is as lacking in answers as the question, “can smoking weed cause throat cancer?” The reason for this lack of information is because marijuana has been illegal for a long time, and it is still illegal in many jurisdictions.

Researchers can’t use an illegal substance on human subjects to establish the existence or non-existence of marijuana cancer risk. Its legal status also makes it challenging to ask lung cancer patients to detail whether they smoke cannabis and how much of it they smoke. They would be unlikely to tell the truth, that would incriminate them.

Research conducted shows that many of the people who smoke marijuana, especially for recreational use, also smoke tobacco. In the case of a person who smokes both marijuana and tobacco, it’s impossible to establish, in the event they get cancer, whether it was caused by marijuana and tobacco.

The above limitations make it impossible to compare a weed smoker’s lungs vs a cigarette smoker’s with the certainty of which is which.  So what does marijuana do to your lungs? The answer is we are not sure. However, some of the researches conducted have concluded that marijuana smoking causes lung cancer. Some people go to the other extreme as far as to say that weed kills cancer, but no empirical basis for this has been found.

So, does pot cause cancer? At the moment, the answer is maybe. Marijuana cancer risk remains a strong suspicion that could comprehensively be backed by science at a later date. 

Conclusion

If you wonder whether you can get bronchitis from smoking weed, wonder no more because you can and you will. The million-dollar question has always been, “can you get lung cancer from smoking weed?” Here is our considered opinion. While we don’t know for sure, but whether it does or not, avoiding bronchitis is a good enough reason not to smoke.  Is there tar in marijuana? Yes, and considering its role in cancer-causing tobacco, you ought to consider smoking marijuana as a risk factor for lung cancer.

Dwight K. Blake Written by: Dwight K. Blake

Dwight was a Mental Health counselor at Long Island Psychotherapy & Counseling in Westbury, New York for more than 15 years. He believes that CBD is the prime solution to this mental illness and more-- with proper research, medical acknowledgment, and application.
Through his work at AmericanMarijuana, together with the rest of the team, he wishes to provide everyone with genuine results and high-quality product reviews for everyone to enjoy for free.

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