Vaping Causes Cancer: Myth or Fact?

In recent years, people are increasingly switching from cigarette smoking to vaping. It has proven to be an effective method for people trying to kick their addiction, or those looking for a healthier alternative to smoking. Incidentally, vaping has also been one of the biggest trending topics on the internet as of late. This is due, in part, to the results of a study published in the Journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Researchers from the University School of Medicine in New York studied how e-cigarettes, or vape pens, affected the DNA of mice and human cells. The study focused on how different components of the vapor, produced by e-cigarettes, could cause damage to DNA cells, on the initial premise that this damage could increase the risk of cancer.

The study itself didn’t exactly observe how vaping affects humans, as there was no study conducted on humans themselves.

What the Study Found

The researchers found that the vapor from vape pens increased the level of DNA damage in the bladder, lungs, and heart, of the mice tested. They also found that the molecular cells, that should repair any damage in DNA, were not able to work to their optimum levels in the lungs of mice exposed to vapor from e-cigarettes.

The study also looked at how nicotine, as contained in e-cigarettes, affects the human lungs and bladder. However, this study focused specifically on human cells grown artificially in a dish. While nicotine is the substance in cigarettes that causes addiction, it is not what actually causes the damage associated with smoking cigarettes. Both regular cigarettes and vape pens contain nicotine, but vape pens contain a much lower level of the harmful components found in cigarette smoke.

In the results of the study posted in the Journal PNAS, the scientists concluded that there is a strong possibility that vaping may contribute to cancer of the lungs and bladder, as well as contributing to a host of other conditions, including heart disease in humans. Based on the results of their study, they concluded that the smoke from vape pens and electronic cigarettes is carcinogenic in nature, and that people who vape have a high risk of developing the above listed medical conditions.

What This Result Means

It is not surprising that the results of this study have caused a slew of follow-up reports and articles all over the internet, suggesting that vaping can actually cause cancer. But an article by Cancer Research UK questions the results of these findings, and points out that the study did not actually involve humans, and so could not conclusively show a relationship between vaping and cancer in humans. While the study and its results are technically possible, because the experiment was not conducted on humans there is reason for others to claim that there is no cancerous, or otherwise negative, the effect of vaping in humans.

Fact or Myth

While there is no denying the fact that vaping may have some negative health implications, even though there is currently no scientific proof to say that with absolute certainty, there is no doubt that vaping is significantly less dangerous than smoking cigarettes. Unlike regular cigarettes, vape pens do not contain tobacco, which is internationally accepted to be the highest cause of fatality in cigarettes.

Testing on animals through experiments done in labs is a useful way to test medical theories but, in a lot of cases, these studies do not account for what happens in living humans.

A lot of experts are of the opinion that research into vaping and cancer is not conclusive, and so cannot be taken as fact. The Director of Tobacco Dependence Research at Queen Mary University in London, Peter Hajek, sums this up when he told the Guardian that this study is just one in a long line of false alarms, which have the potential to discourage people from switching from cigarettes to vaping, an action which would actually be greatly beneficial to them. He pointed out that, at the worst, vaping poses a 5% risk which is quite a significant difference when you compare it with cigarette smoking.

What Other Studies Found

Public Health England, in a study conducted in partnership with several leading tobacco experts, found out that vaping poses only a very small likelihood of the risks associated with smoking, and that switching to vaping from smoking can provide tremendous health benefits that smoking cigarettes will never provide. The study also showed that vaping also helps at least 20,000 people quit smoking every year.

The review went further to point out that, even though many smokers ‘incorrectly’ believe that vaping is at least as harmful as smoking, there is no evidence to support this claim, nor is there any to support the fact that vaping provides a pathway for young people to get into smoking.

Similar studies on the effect of vaping and e-cigarettes to human health were carried out at the request of the US Congress by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and were published in January 2018, but also found no evidence that vaping is associated with cancer in humans. The study also showed very little evidence that it causes cancer in animals.

The report further suggested that, even though vaping may not be without its health risks, it is far less dangerous than smoking cigarettes.

Conclusion

While there is no denying the fact that vaping has a few health risks, it is safe to say that it is far safer than smoking cigarettes. At the end of the day, it depends on the level of nicotine consumed, and whether there is nicotine in the content of the vape pen. Vaping gives the user the opportunity to ingest as much, or as little, nicotine as they want.

The internet is a constant source of information, but, in a lot of cases, the information found online is either completely wrong or misleading. The same applies to the recent plethora of information concerning cancer as a result of vaping, which is largely myth with no evidence to back it up. It is important that internet users learn to look at the bigger picture, and take other studies into account, comparing results before jumping to conclusions. The evidence suggesting that vaping causes cancer is not merely inconclusive, but completely unfounded.

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