There are so many different ideas and theories that float around about marijuana, and more specifically marijuana and lung cancer. The U.S. is currently in a big debate as to whether or not marijuana has therapeutic and medicinal benefits. Most medical practitioners do agree it may be helpful in certain situations, such as in helping increase the appetite of people going through chemotherapy.

With that being said, there’s a lot of divergence in opinions when it comes to other things marijuana might be useful for, and many doctors feel it can have some benefits and negative effects, too.

Some states have approved marijuana for certain medicinal purposes, and others like Colorado have even approved it for recreational use, but does that mean it’s free of potential negative side effects? No.

Just like alcohol is legal for people above a certain age, marijuana becoming legal doesn’t mean there are no consequences to its use.

A common topic of discussion is marijuana and lung cancer, and a question people have is, “does marijuana cause lung cancer?”

Correlation Between Marijuana and Lung Cancer

Answering “does marijuana cause lung cancer” is difficult and doesn’t have a definitive answer. Like so many other topics dealing with marijuana, there seem to be mixed results as far as research is concerned.

In 2006 a groundbreaking study was released, and it showed that there wasn’t an increase in lung cancer because of marijuana use. The study even went on to say that with marijuana and lung cancer, there was potential for the drug to actually protect against cancer.

However, more recent studies have shown there may be a link between marijuana and lung cancer. The current studies have shown that not only is there a potential link between marijuana and lung cancer, but it tends to increase in proportion to the amount of marijuana smoked.

A few general facts to know about marijuana and lung cancer include:

  • Many of the carcinogens in tobacco smoke may also exist in marijuana smoke, so there is some belief that this means the risks of developing lung cancer could be similar.
  • Smoking marijuana can lead to inflammation and cell damage, two scenarios that have been linked to lung cancer.
  • Marijuana can cause problems in how your immune system functions, which could lead to an increased risk of developing cancer.

While there may be some risk of developing lung cancer because of marijuana use, the risk is lower with marijuana than with cigarette smoking. Simultaneously, medical professionals do recommend people be cautious with smoking marijuana since so much more research needs to be done.

While the medical community isn’t exactly sure of the relationships between marijuana and lung cancer right now, it should be noted that this all refers to smoking marijuana. It’s not necessarily the cannabis itself that doctors feel could contribute to lung cancer, so taking the drug in other ways may reduce these risks altogether.

What About Using Marijuana for Cancer Patients?

So does marijuana cause lung cancer? The answer is unclear. Another commonly heard question with marijuana and lung cancer is whether or not the substance can be helpful for people who already have lung cancer.

Marijuana may soothe some of the symptoms of cancer. With that being said, with marijuana and lung cancer and other types of cancer, it’s important to differentiate that this doesn’t mean marijuana is a cure. It just means that it can be helpful to use cannabis as a way to manage and treat some of the symptoms of cancer, not cancer itself.

There’s early research on the use of marijuana, and its role in reducing tumor growth, but these concepts are still in the very early stages.

The following are some of the key things to know when it comes to marijuana and lung cancer:

  • Marijuana and lung cancer may be positively correlated in people who smoke the drug, and there has been some research showing the risk is somewhat similar to people who smoke tobacco.
  • If you’re a heavy, long-term marijuana smoker, you’re likely to sustain lung damage as a result, and many of the chemicals in tobacco that contribute to cancer in tobacco smokers are also present in marijuana.
  • When you smoke marijuana, you inhale deeply, which allows certain toxic substances to go directly into your lungs.
  • There is no definitive answer right now with marijuana and lung cancer regarding whether or not smoking causes cancer, but doctors advise caution regardless.
  • Marijuana and lung cancer may have another relationship, and that’s the use of cannabis to help treat cancer symptoms.

According to the American Cancer Society, marijuana smoke contains tar and many cancer-causing substances present in tobacco smoke. Since marijuana is still illegal in many places, there’s a lack of control regarding what’s in it that could make it potentially more dangerous. For people who are casual or light marijuana users, the risk is likely lower of developing lung cancer. The risk is highest in people who smoke marijuana and also cigarettes.

The best thing you can do to learn more about marijuana and lung cancer is to speak with a physician, and it’s important you never use marijuana or any other substance as a way to self-medicate. If you’re worried you have a problem with marijuana abuse, there are treatment options available so you can avoid the risks that can potentially come with the use of this drug.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.