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Pot and Lung Cancer
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A group of New Zealand scientists think there is a definite link:
In an article published in the European Respiratory Journal, the scientists said cannabis could be expected to harm the airways more than tobacco as its smoke contained twice the level of carcinogens, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, compared with tobacco cigarettes.

The method of smoking also increases the risk, since joints are typically smoked without a proper filter and almost to the very tip, which increases the amount of smoke inhaled. The cannabis smoker inhales more deeply and for longer, facilitating the deposition of carcinogens in the airways.

"Cannabis smokers end up with five times more carbon monoxide in their bloodstream (than tobacco smokers)," team leader Richard Beasley, at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, said in a telephone interview.

"There are higher concentrations of carcinogens in cannabis smoke ... what is intriguing to us is there is so little work done on cannabis when there is so much done on tobacco."
You know, when I smoked, way back in the late '60s and early '70s, I knew, before all the studies came out, that I was harming myself and my lungs with smoking. Think about it, you're sucking on a lighted tube of vegetable matter and inhaling the smoke from that deep into your lungs. How's that a good thing? And, of course it isn't. But I always wondered why nothing was ever said about pot smoking in that regards. So it has intrigued me as well.
The researchers interviewed 79 lung cancer patients and sought to identify the main risk factors for the disease, such as smoking, family history and occupation. The patients were questioned about alcohol and cannabis consumption.

In this high-exposure group, lung cancer risk rose by 5.7 times for patients who smoked more than a joint a day for 10 years, or two joints a day for 5 years, after adjusting for other variables, including cigarette smoking.

"While our study covers a relatively small group, it shows clearly that long-term cannabis smoking increases lung cancer risk," wrote Beaseley.
I'm not a non-smoking fanatic (I just don't care for it nor do I care to be around it) as we're all big boys and girls and are free to make choices concerning what we ingest. I just found this to be interesting and offer it for information only.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

But I always wondered why nothing was ever said about pot smoking in that regards.
My recollections are quite different. I heard plenty of people talk about lung cancer/cannabis connections in the 70s, and a lot of what they said was very similar to the claims based on this study. I specifically remember frequent speculations about how many cigarettes were required to equal the carcinogenic impact of one joint. Whether based on research or rumor I don’t know, but it wasn’t uncommon to hear that just a few tokes did the damage of half or even a whole pack of legal smokes. This belief seemed pretty widespread, even among smokers of both substances. As years and decades passed, though, a lot of this seemed to be dismissed as wild speculation or even deliberate misinformation spurred by the war on drugs.
...lung cancer risk rose by 5.7 times for patients who smoked more than a joint a day for 10 years, or two joints a day for 5 years...
Can you even imagine? It’s a wonder they didn’t just shake themselves to death coughing before any cancer had time to take hold.
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Yeah, THIS will get a lot of play in the media.

Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Of course pot smoking is dangerous...

Just think of all that CO2 pollutant expelled with each refer-contaminated breath!
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Uh. 79 participants does not a study make. These findings are about as relevant as me polling my family reunion and concluding that Kentucky causes alcoholism and diabetes. L2statistics, noobs. That said, yes, inhaling energized particulates is *gasp*pun*cough* bad for your lungs. Also, water is wet and interstellar space is cold.
Written By: Drew
URL: http://
rose by 5.7 times for patients who smoked more than a joint a day for 10 years, or two joints a day for 5 years
Man! Who the hell smokes 2 doobies a day for 5 years???
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
"My recollections are quite different."

Me too! Me too! I have also heard and read some claims of an association between lung disease and marijuana smoking. They always seemed sort of understated and reluctant, unlike the enthusiastic and strident anti-tobacco reports. Of course, marijuana is a sacred sacrament, and not just among the Rastafarians. Sort of like the sacred disease (AIDS) and the sacred surgical rite (abortion). Saying bad things about marijuana, and even other drugs, is just not done by sophisticated people.

" Man! Who the hell smokes 2 doobies a day for 5 years??? "

You might be surprised. I have known a few.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
This is utter crap. There have been HUNDREDS of studies attempting to link marijuana to lung cancer (many gov’t-funded in a futile attempt to find justification for the War on Drugs), and the link has never been found (by contrast, studies of tobacco show that it causes cancer in pretty much every form you can ingest it).

Tobacco is carcinogenic, marijuana is not.

In fact, the active ingredient in marijuana may actually FIGHT lung cancer.

Sheesh, I would expect libertarians to know this stuff already.
Written By: TallDave
The correlation in this (very small) study, btw, is probably explained either by an uncontrolled factor such as the greater propensity of marijuana smokers to also smoke cigarettes, or by a nonrepresentative sample.
Written By: TallDave
Here’s another, from Fox News, that has a little more detail:,2933,196678,00.html
A total of 611 lung cancer patients living in Los Angeles County, and 601 patients with other cancers of the head and neck were compared with 1,040 people without cancer matched for age, sex, and the neighborhood they lived in.

All the participants were asked about lifetime use of marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as other drugs, their diets, occupation, family history of lung cancer, and socioeconomic status.

The heaviest marijuana users in the study had smoked more than 22,000 joints, while moderately heavy smokers had smoked between 11,000 and 22,000 joints.

While two-pack-a-day or more cigarette smokers were found to have a 20-fold increase in lung cancer risk, no elevation in risk was seen for even the very heaviest marijuana smokers.

The more tobacco a person smoked, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer and other cancers of the head and neck. But people who smoked more marijuana were not at increased risk compared with people who smoked less and people who didn’t smoke at all.
Written By: TallDave
What’s your view on smuggling laws, Dave?
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Depends what’s being smuggled.

In some cases (nukes, bioweapons) there’s clearly a public safety interest. In the case of things that aren’t dangerous and are desired by the consuming public, smuggling laws tend to create a situation of huge profit margins that generally accrue to the most ruthless operators in an unregulated underground economy rife with violence due to the absence of conventional conflict-resolution instutitions.
Written By: TallDave
i dont see how you could get much of a confidence interval with a sample size of 79 patients
Written By: meh
URL: http://
Meagain: Potheads.

TallDave: Last I checked, a lot of organic combustion products were carcinogenic, regardless of their source. Marijuana might be less - even far less - carcinogenic than tobacco, when smoked, but the idea that it has no carcinogenic effect at all is dubious at best.

Smoke + Lungs = Bad for lungs. Whether it’s bad enough to worry about for anyone not smoking all day, is another matter, one I’m plenty willing to give pot the benefit of the doubt on.

(And unfortunately the last time I did a search for such studies, there were a plethora of pro-pot sites all making the same claims, but a severe paucity of actual links to studies. The Herer-ites aren’t exactly paragons of scientific practice, sadly. They’re evangelists, not scientists.

Heck, I like pot and I can’t stand them.)

Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
Meagain, are two doobies too many or too few. Just askin
Written By: Paden Cash
URL: http://
Smoke + Lungs = Bad for lungs.
Not necessarily. The dose makes the poison. Didn’t the WHO cut short a study a few years back, fearing that its results might show that second-hand smoke had a mild protective effect?

In any event, comparing marijuana to tobacco is silly beyond belief. If you smoke two cigarettes a day, you barely qualify as a smoker at all. If you smoke two joints a day, you’re a pothead. Does anyone smoke two packs of joints a day?
Written By: Xrlq
Just google "marijuana lung cancer" and you will find numerous articles which, more often than not, disclaim a link between the two and even a few articles claiming that "Marijuana May Fight Lung Tumors".

Large numbers of people have been smoking marijuana on a daily basis for over forty years now. Meanwhile researchers have been working hard for almost as long to link marijuana to health risks with little success. The above New Zealand study of 79(!) lung cancer patients is deeply unpersuasive. Compare that with this UCLA study of 2240 people, Study Finds No Cancer-Marijuana Connection.

I imagine that breathing just about any smoke—cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke, campfire smoke—provides some degree of insult to the lungs, but whether that adds up to significant risk of lung cancer decades down the line is another matter and requires significant proof.
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
The article seemed to focus on only one method of smoking. TallDave, you seem to follow this debate closely: any studies on Jay v. Bong? Academic interest only, mind you, but this has got me curious. Back in my school days we used to roll them with filters, and those quickly became quite nasty indeed, so I’d kind of assumed extra tar. That doesn’t necessarily mean extra carcinogen though.

Of course, as a Marlboro red smoker (previously Luckies) I’m probably dead typing this, but my curiousity is piqued.
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
Does anyone smoke two packs of joints a day?

Well, I knew a girl once... But that’s the exception.

TallDave, you seem to follow this debate closely: any studies on Jay v. Bong?

The consensus seemed to be it doesn’t matter too much, as I recall. I know at least one study found that joints were no worse than bongs. Interestingly, vaporizers weren’t much improvement either.

Sigvald correctly points our that any burnt vegetable matter is probably not good for your lungs; tobacco just happens to be a very carcinogenic substance even when NOT smoked, as numerous studies of dip and chew have shown pretty conclusively. My guess is the one well-established marijuana risk - the one-hour heart attack risk elevation - is probably due to the oxygen-reducing effect of any kind of smoke on the lungs.

So, if you want to be totally safe, eating marijuana is the way to go (academically speaking, of course!), but smoking won’t give you cancer.
Written By: TallDave
I am a heavy marijuana smoker. For the past at least 4 years ive probably smoked more than the equivalent of 1 or two joints a day. I however, do not smoke tobacco or deal with tobacco in any form. I read the same article by the people in New Zealand but only after having read various articles about a study done in the US. The New Zealand study is more recent but only uses 79 people. While an American study (done in 2006) looked at over 1000 people who had cancer (lung, head, neck) and 1000 people with no cancer (all from California). The American study looked at multiple factors such as family history, cig use, etc and found that even with the higher level of carcinogens, cannabis doesn’t raise the risk of any cancer. They found no link to cancer from anyone from people who rarely smoke weed to people who had smoked for over 30 "joint years" (smoking at least one joint a day for a year). The people who ran the US study believe that THC may have tumor-fighting elements that they have not discovered yet. To me the American study seems to be a LOT more extensive and believable than the NZ study. However, I know that smoking ANYTHING isn’t gong to be good for your health but neither are a lot of the things in this world. Just another reason to use things in moderation.
Written By: Mary Jane
URL: http://

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