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Can Using Cannabis Lead to Cancer?

young man smoking marijuana

Over 19 states and two territories in the U.S. have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. But as more people use it, health experts are investigating health risks.

Many studies reveal that long-term cannabis use can increase the risk of cancer. Wondering how? Below we discuss in-depth the link between smoking cannabis and cancer:

A Quick Glance at Cannabis

Cannabis is a medicinal plant cultivated worldwide for medicinal and recreational use. The plant and bud have multiple names based on their preparation. It includes marijuana, kush, hemp, pot, herb, and weed.

Typically, cannabis refers to the dried bud or leaves of the plant. Many people use it for recreational, medical, and religious purposes.

Why Is Cannabis Harmful to Your Health?

Studies show that cannabis comprises similar volatile chemicals and components to tobacco. But the amount of harmful substances is higher in marijuana smoke.

Let’s discuss the different compounds in cannabis and their potential side effects:

Types of Cannabis Compounds

Similar to how different cannabis compounds react differently in the body, its effect may also vary based on how it enters your body. In general, there are two ways to use marijuana:

· Using it In Food- Edible cannabis comes in various shapes and flavors. It includes drinks, baked desserts, vape bottles, cooking oils, and candy. Once the THC enters your system, it requires a few hours to absorb.

· Inhaling It- Smoking or vaporizing cannabis allows the THC to enter the bloodstream almost instantly. But the effects of inhaling marijuana do not last long as edible ones.

Reasons It Can Be Harmful

As discussed, cannabis smoke comprises most of the harmful substances in tobacco. These include the following:

· Benzo [a] pyrene

· Benz [a] anthracene

· Nitrosamines

· Phenols

· Reactive oxygen substances

· Vinyl chloride

Moreover, since people smoke cannabis differently, it can result in a higher health risk. For instance, inhaling marijuana and holding it can lead to higher lung and toxins contact. It can increase the chances of volatile substances sticking to the tissues.

Besides this, people enjoy smoking cannabis joints till the end. Inhaling tar, comprising comparatively higher harmful components, can pose significant health risks.

The Difference between Smoking Cannabis and Tobacco

By now, we’ve covered that cannabis, similar to tobacco, comprises volatile chemicals. But the amount and way you smoke marijuana can increase risks.

Furthermore, many studies show that smoking marijuana has a lower lung damage risk than inhaling tobacco smoke. However, smoking marijuana can irritate the throat and lungs, resulting in heavy cough and inflammation.

In fact, an insightful study shows that people who smoke cannabis have more respiratory problem-related outpatient medical visits than non-smokers.

The Impact of Cannabis: Does It Increase the Risk of Cancer?

Consuming or smoking cannabis can deliver cannabinoids and THC to your bloodstream. While it primarily creates a euphoric effect, it can also affect cognition and movement.

In addition, many people report feeling anxious or paranoid after smoking/eating marijuana. Other studies reveal that it can increase the risk of lung cancer.

Let’s discuss in-depth whether there is a legitimate link between cannabis and cancer and the potential reasons:

How Does Using Cannabis Affect Your Lungs?

Smoking cannabis can damage the internal lining of the lungs, leading to chronic cough and increased mucus production. In addition, tissue deterioration can lead to acute bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive lung disease.

Continuous damage to the respiratory system can worsen inflammation, increasing the risk of lung cancer. Besides this, research reveals that smoking cannabis can hurt your reproductive functions and elevate the risk of oral cancer.

Another in-depth study shows that long-term use of cannabis increases lung cancer risks. The research further reveals that the risk skyrockets by 8% annually regarding cannabis smoking. Furthermore, since cannabis causes inflammation, it can lead to pre-cancerous lung changes.

Besides this, cannabis can interrupt the receptors in the brain and cause dysfunction in the immune system. So, it can increase the risk of cancer.

The Risks of Second-Hand Cannabis Smoke

Here’s the truth: second-hand cannabis comprises similar toxic chemicals as smoking it yourself. So, exposure to smoke poses identical risks.

Although more research is required to prove this impact, it’s still a significant concern for at-risk people, including children and individuals with chronic medical conditions.

Challenges in Finding Tangible Data

Despite the studies discussed, most scientists have failed to find a solid relationship between smoking cannabis and increased cancer risk. The primary challenge in determining the precise contribution of cannabis is that most studies investigate the effects of marijuana and tobacco.

Moreover, most cell culture and animal studies suggest cannabinoids and THC offer anti-tumor and relieving effects. Another insightful study also reveals no tangible link between marijuana and lung cancer. Lastly, since different strains have varying THC content, regulating research is comparatively challenging.

The Other Side: Can Cannabis Treat Cancer?

Multiple studies show that cannabis has some potential medical benefits for patients with cancer, not in terms of curing the disease, but in addressing some of the side effects associated with cancer treatments. Since marijuana is now legal across many U.S. states, many people use it to enjoy its positive effects.

Most people use marijuana to treat the following symptoms:

· Anxiety and depression

· Chronic pain

· Insomnia

· Nausea

· Vomiting

Currently, two FDA-approved medications, are Dronabinol and Nabilone used to treat cancer-related symptoms. It includes fatigue, vomiting, and weight loss. Another popular product comprising cannabinoids and THC is nabiximols, which help relieve cancer-caused pain.

In addition, a controlled study found that the chemicals in cannabis can reduce, disrupt, or stop cancer growth.

How to Lower the Risk of Cannabis?

Although the research is unclear, there is proof that smoking cannabis can hurt your lung tissues. So, follow these steps to minimize the effects of marijuana:

· Adolescents and young adults have higher risks of disrupting receptors by inhaling cannabis. Stick to not using it till the 25

· Avoid mixing marijuana with tobacco and alcohol- it’s the holy grail of sickness

· Use edibles instead of inhaling cannabis to minimize the effects on your lungs

The Bottom Line

Many researchers agree that cannabis can increase your risk of lung damage and cancer. However, they are yet to discover a clear link, necessitating more in-depth research.

While people report chronic cough, wheezing, and respiratory issues caused by marijuana, other studies provide a contrasting image.



Hi! I'm Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds

I write many of the articles here on Cannaquit and make sure I personally review every piece of information that appears on the site, so as to make sure you are getting facts and information supported by evidence.

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