Published on October 15, 2023

The Link Between Vaping and Cancer

Vaping, also known as e-cigarettes or vape pens, has become a widespread habit for many people. However, the health effects are not well understood.

Since e-cigarettes are relatively new and most users are young, it is difficult to determine any long-term health implications of vaping. It may take decades before we know if vaping can lead to cancer.

Nicotine

Nicotine is a dangerous substance that causes DNA alterations, increasing cancer and tumor growth. Does vaping cause cancer? In addition, the vapor from e-cigarettes contains substances that can cause cancer, like formaldehyde and N-nitrosamines. Additionally, these chemicals may worsen pulmonary function and induce oxidative stress.

Nicotine, diacetyl, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the three most popular components in e-liquids. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are linked to respiratory disorders, including emphysema, and diethyl is a food ingredient that can harm the bronchioles, which are tiny airways in the lungs, leading to a lung condition termed bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung.”

E-cigarette vapor is also known to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and the narrowing of the arteries. Nicotine and its byproducts can hurt the development of the brain, lower the immune system, and increase the risk of heart attack.

In addition, chronic low-grade inflammation can be a silent killer and contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. It is crucial to reduce inflammatory foods such as processed meats, sugary beverages, and fried foods and to exercise regularly. If you are a smoker or vaper, talk to your healthcare team about quitting. They can assist you in locating resources and methods to help you stop smoking or vaping and improve your health. They can also offer coping strategies for situations or emotions that make you want to vape or smoke cigarettes.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling chemical that produces many standard household products. It is found in pressed wood products, such as particleboard and plywood, glues and adhesives, permanent-press fabrics, paper coatings, and insulation materials. It is also used as a fungicide, germicide, and preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories. Additionally, it is created by living things as a byproduct of metabolism in the environment.

Humans who are exposed to low quantities of formaldehyde may have a variety of health consequences. The severity of these effects depends on the concentration and duration of exposure and an individual’s sensitivity to the chemical. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and may cause respiratory irritation, coughing, eye and skin irritation, and headaches. Long-term exposure may even damage the immune system and increase the risk of infection.

A team of researchers has conducted pioneering research on the effects of inhaled formaldehyde. Their latest work, published on Jan. 30 in the Archives of Toxicology, evaluates DNA damage caused by inhaling low doses of formaldehyde. Using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, it measures exogenous and endogenous formaldehyde-induced DNA mono adducts and DNA-protein crosslinks. Previous studies have linked occupational exposure to formaldehyde with a higher risk of cancers of the hematopoietic and lymphatic systems, including leukemia. However, these studies did not determine the specific work practices that increased formaldehyde exposure.

Propylene Glycol

When heated, the organic compound propylene glycol can produce vapors. It is an ingredient in e-liquids and is often mixed with vegetable glycerin to form the liquid base of e-cigarettes. Propylene glycol is not toxic when ingested orally and is considered safe by the FDA.

However, it can be dangerous in large amounts and cause various health problems. When exposed to high levels of propylene glycol, the kidneys cannot process it as quickly as they should, leading to a build-up of lactic acid and acidosis. Low heart rate, unconsciousness, and central nervous system depression are all possible effects.

It is also possible to develop allergies to propylene glycol in high doses. It can include dermatitis and a rash on the face or body. It can also be toxic to the eyes, causing blurred vision and redness. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to propylene glycol can be similar to those associated with a bad cold or the flu.

So far, no documented cases of cancer diagnoses are linked to vaping. However, this is due to many factors, including the fact that it is still a relatively new phenomenon. It will likely take decades before we understand the long-term effects of vaping, and it is essential to remember that most people who use e-cigarettes are also current or former smokers.

Glycerin

Glycerin is a thick, syrupy liquid that occurs naturally in plant and animal fats. It can also be manufactured synthetically. This compound is nontoxic and often used in cosmetics to retain moisture and as a sweetener without adding sugar. Glycerin can also be found in some medications and used as a laxative, suppository, or enema. Glycerol draws water into the gut to soften hard stools, making them easier to pass. It is also commonly used in fog machines to produce theatrical smoke and fog.

While it is too early to know if vaping has long-term health risks, doctors know it can affect the lungs and mouth. Inhaling irritants, including nicotine and other chemicals from e-cigarettes, can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation. It can disrupt the ability to breathe correctly, interfere with immune-boosting white cells, and cause coughing and bronchitis.

Additionally, vaporized nicotine can cause oral cancer, when a tumor or sore forms in the mouth that does not go away. It is vital for people with cancer and those considering vaping to discuss the potential benefits and hazards with their healthcare providers. In the meantime, patients should avoid e-cigarettes and other vaping products until more is known about their health impact. A new study in 2020 suggests that flavored e-cigarettes could make it harder for people to quit smoking, and menthol cigarettes have been linked to a lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans.


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