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Does Marijuana Use and Misuse Cause Cancer?


It is a common presumption that the use or misuse of cannabis/marijuana is associated with the development of cancer, especially lung cancer. Most studies have attempted to describe the connection between the two variables. Nevertheless, a clear relationship between the use or misuse of the substance and the development of cancer was not estimated. The purpose of this paper is to review two studies that have attempted to define the possible link between marijuana use/misuse and lung cancer.

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Comparison and Analysis of the Raised Issues

Recent studies have shown different opinions about the use of cannabis and its impact on human lungs. While the study by Callaghan, Allebeck and Sidorchuk (2013) provides that the link between marijuana use and lung cancer is relatively higher than previously depicted, another study by Tashking (2013) has shown that the connection does not exist, raising questions over the common belief that smoking cannabis causes lung cancer.

These studies have addressed a major public health problem. They attempted to determine whether the smoking of cannabis facilitates the development of lung cancer in humans. According to Callaghan, Allebeck and Sidorchuk (2013), smoked cannabis has a number of carcinogens that increase the risk of having the lung cancer, especially in smoked tobacco.

To show the possibility of the existence of the link between cannabis use and lung cancer, the study used a population-based cohort study spanning over a period of 40 years. The authors examined a study population of 49,316 men aged between 18 and 20. The participants were assessed for the use of marijuana during a Swedish military conscription in 1969 and 1970. The participants were then followed up until 2009 to determine whether they had developed lung cancer since the then.

Callaghan, Allebeck and Sidorchuk (2013) raised an important issue describing the probability of developing lung cancer in heavy smokers of marijuana. It is worth noting that the issue raised here concerns the long-term use of the substance. On the other hand, Tashking (2013) used a similar study but found that regular use of smoked marijuana causes a number of observable problems, such as injuries to the major airways, but does not cause or lead to lung cancer. This study questions the validity of restricting smoking of the substance based on its ability to cause or lead to lung cancer.

While Callaghan, Allebeck and Sidorchuk (2013) found that heavy smokers of the substance were associated with more than twofold risk of developing cancer of the lungs, Tashking (2013) states that the use of smoked cannabis over a long period does not show evidence of susceptibility to lung cancer unless it is smoked together with tobacco or other drugs.

Therefore, another issue addressed in this case involves the possibility that smoking cannabis increases (or does not increase) the risk of lung cancer when smoked together with nicotine. In addition, it raises the question of whether the type of nicotine present in cannabis is different from the kind of the same substance found in tobacco.

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Personal Reflection

The above studies give contrasting information about the link between marijuana use and the risk of lung cancer. In particular, I noted that both studies used a cohort approach and qualitative research design. In addition, both researches monitored a substantial numbers of smokers over a lengthy period, which validates the findings. I find the findings contracting because the study by Callaghan, Allebeck and Sidorchuk (2013) suggests a possible link between the two aspects, while Tashking (2013) found a non-existing link.

In my opinion, both articles show that the link probably does not exist. For example, Callaghan, Allebeck and Sidorchuk (2013) fail to show the existence of the link, but only hypothesize that smoked cannabis might cause cancer. In fact, apart from demographic and social studies, there is no biological evidence to show that cannabis causes lung cancer. Therefore, I tend to agree with Tashking’s hypothesis.


Callaghan, R. C., Allebeck, P., & Sidorchuk, A. (2013). Marijuana use and risk of lung cancer: a 40-year cohort study. Cancer Causes Control, 24(10), 1811-20.

Tashking, D. P. (2013). Effects of Marijuana Smoking on the Lung. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 10(3), 239-247.

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