Lungs, marijuana and cancer


Melissa Martin, Ph.D.



Common sense says that putting smoke, aerosol, vehicle exhaust, asbestos, coal dust, silica or any inhaled (deliberate or not deliberate) chemicals into your lungs is going against self-preservation and a healthy body. But, humans demand study results before they’ll say what common sense says. And what’s common sense to one person may be nonsense to another.

Think about this question: Does smoking marijuana cause lung cancer?

We have one heart, one liver, one stomach, one bladder — two lungs. We have two lungs for a reason. Breathing is synonymous with life. The respiratory system includes the nose, throat, voice box, windpipe and lungs.

Why do we breath? Functions of the body like moving muscles, digesting food or just thinking, need oxygen. The job of our lungs is to give oxygen and take away carbon dioxide.

According to the American Lung Association, “To keep you alive and breathing, your lungs are on the clock 24/7, 365 days a year. Breathing 12 to 15 times a minute, translating to 17,000 breaths a day or more than 6 million breaths a year.” Wow! Our lungs are mind-blowing.

The American Heart Association, via a multitude of research studies, reports that smoking tobacco is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. Additionally, smoking can increase the risk for cancer of the bladder, throat and mouth, kidneys, cervix and pancreas.

The American Cancer Society reports that secondhand cigarette smoke is known to cause cancer, and contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including at least 70 that can cause cancer.

Does smoking marijuana cause lung cancer?

Studies show conflicting results, so it depends on what data you peruse — not all studies are created equal. While some found evidence that link marijuana to lung cancer, other studies found no connection.

Why it is thorny to study the effects of Cannabis sativa, also called marijuana. People who smoke both marijuana and tobacco make study outcomes difficult. Which one caused what? It’s hard for researchers to set standards to measure effects of illegal marijuana because people use different amounts and different qualities. Furthermore, it’s tricky to gather information about behavior that’s against the law.

Pot proponents are partying and toasting the following study results. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine examined around 10,000 academic abstracts (a paragraph about the conclusion) from studies published since 1999. They revealed the subsequent findings in a 2017 report. “Regarding the link between marijuana and cancer, the committee found evidence that suggests smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for cancers often associated with tobacco use – such as lung and head and neck cancers.”

Hold on for the rest of the story from this same study. “The evidence reviewed by the committee suggests that smoking cannabis on a regular basis is associated with more frequent chronic bronchitis episodes and worse respiratory symptoms, such as chronic cough and phlegm production, but quitting cannabis smoking is likely to reduce these conditions. The committee stated that it is unclear whether cannabis use is associated with certain respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or worsened lung function.”

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine further reported, “Strong evidence links marijuana use to the risk of developing schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, with the highest risk among the most frequent users.” So, instead of getting lung cancer, you may experience psychotic episodes.

Recreational marijuana vs. medicinal marijuana is another topic. Nonetheless, if a direct link to marijuana smoking and lung cancer is found, like the well-founded link to tobacco smoke and lung cancer, will individuals with chronic health conditions stop using weed?

The American Lung Association states, “We caution the public against smoking marijuana because of the risks it poses to lung health.” However, they advocate for continued research on medicinal effects.

The conclusion from the scientific community is that more research is needed to know the cancer risks from smoking marijuana, if any.

But, what does common sense say?

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Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.

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