Does Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer? Doctors demand more research

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By Shamard Charles, M.D. and Linda Carroll

Early in his career, Dr. Raja Flores knew that most of them were cigarette smokers. But over the years, Flores, a thoracic surgeon at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, noticed a surprising trend: some of his patients had never smoked a tobacco cigarette. They smoked a different drug: marijuana. And they had developed a much more aggressive form of lung cancer.

Initially, Flores did not think there could be a connection between marijuana and lung cancer. Research associating smoking with cancer was rare and inconclusive. But as the numbers grew, Flores wondered if he saw a new ominous trend.

"I thought," wait a minute, here's another person in their forties who has never touched a cigarette and cancer is everywhere, "Flores told NBC News." It's so bad that I can not even work. "

Flores recognizes that there is no scientific evidence that smoking cannabis causes lung cancer. But he fears that the combination of widespread legalization and commercialization of the potential health benefits of marijuana can lead to the belief that cannabis is a completely harmless drug. In fact, a nationally representative survey of American adults last summer found that almost one-third of those polled believed that smoking or spraying grass could protect a person's health. And this misperception could lead to the development of cancers due to marijuana use, but drug promoters do not detect it, says Flores.

According to Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonologist, an intensive care instructor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Tobacco Treatment Clinic, many Americans shared the same view of tobacco before collected evidence showing that smoking could cause lung cancer.

Until the number of cigarette-related lung cancer cases accumulates to a level that no-one can ignore, respected scientists have even dismissed warnings about the potential dangers of smoking, said Galiatsatos.

Does Marijuana Use Cause Lung Cancer?

Most research says no, but that does not mean that smoking joints in the long run is without consequences.

A 2016 study of health problems related to marijuana use found strong links between daily or near-daily marijuana use and chronic bronchitis, an inflammation of the lungs that causes coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.

"Smoked marijuana has effects on the airways for long periods of time," said Dr. Russell Bowler, director of the COPD Treatment Clinic at National Jewish Health in Denver. He is a member of the Public Health Advisory Committee of Marijuana in Retail for the Department of Public Health and the Environment of Colorado, which commissioned the study.

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