Can Smoking Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer

  1. Summary: Is smoking weed as bad for your lungs as cigarettes? Answer: NO.Can smoke weed cause lung cancer (more than or equal to tobacco)? Probably not.
  2. Risks of Smoking Pot on Lungs Compared to tobacco smoking Marijuana Effects on Lungs vs Tobacco: Marijuana associated with fewer health risks
  3. Medical Study(s) about THC and cannabis smoke effects on the Lungs: No increased lung cancer risk
  4. Risk Reduction Pyramid for Bud use: Topical and edible may be safer.
  5. Does Weed contain Substances and Chemicals Which Can Help Prevent Cancer and other Health Dangers? Answer: Yes.
  6. Second Hand Weed Smoke Risks. Do not smoke marijuana around children.
  7. Conclusion: Can u get lung cancer from smoking weed? Answer: Unlikely.

marijuana vs tobacco

Figure 1. weed smokers lungs vs cigarette smokers lungs

Summary: Is smoking weed as bad for your lungs as cigarettes?

Can smoking weed cause lung cancer risk greater than or equal to tobacco?  Probably not. There have been a handful of studies examining the question of if weed smoking can cause an increased risk of lung cancer. Many of these studies expected to find an increased risk, since inhaling the products of combustion alone are associated often with increase lung cancer risk, no matter what substance is combusting. Surprisingly, researchers have generally found no increased cancer risk. This is paradoxical. The current explanation is that because many cannabinoids have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, this offsets any increase in risk that comes from inhaling the products of combustion.

Risks of Smoking Pot on Lungs Compared to Tobacco

Smoking Marijuana Effects on Lungs versus tobacco

First off, let us point out that smoking marijuana is known to contain carcinogens which can cause cancer and other conditions. This is already well-known. Studies are showing that in a population, few will get lung cancer from marijuana and the increase in risk is far lower than from exposure to tobacco.

Health Facts of Marijuana Versus Tobacco
Cannabis Tobacco
  • Studies have found marijuana helps in cancer by fighting nausea from chemotherapy. (Finn, 2015)
  • Cannabis has been used for thousands of years.
  • A 2009 study found marijuana use associated with a decrease in head and neck cancer (Liang).
  • CBD, cannabidiol, a component of cannabis can encourage the death of tumor cells (Ramer, et al., 2012).
  • Cannabis components slow the growth of cancer cells in the lab.
  • A cannabis spray called Nabiximols is used to treat cancer pain.
  • Studies find marijuana helpful for neuropathic pain.
  • Marijuana smoke alone does not seem to lead to COPD or emphysema (Tashkin & Tashkin, 2009).
  • Cannabis and synthetic THC can increase weight gain in patients with HIV (Haney, et al., 2007).
  • Reduced lung function from marijuana smoke appears to be less than that of tobacco.
  • Of over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco, 250 may damage health, 69 are known carcinogens
  • Smoking tobacco is the top cause of cancer and preventable mortality
  • Tobacco may increase the risk of leukemia, cancers, and eye cataracts (DrugFacts: Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products, n.d.).
  • Tobacco is known to be addictive.
  • Smoking tobacco is also associated with heart disease and many diseases in addition to cancer.
  • 36% of the preventable deaths caused by marijuana are from cancer.
  • Cigarette and tobacco use are associated with cancers throughout the body.
  • Cigarette smoking presents a danger to every major organ system in the body.
  • Smoking cigarettes increase inflammation and damage the immune system

Medical Study about THC and cannabis smoke effects on Lungs

A 2006 study published in Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers failed to show an increased risk of lung cancers associated with smoking marijuana (Hashibe 2006).

A 2009 study done by Brown University found a reduced incidence of head and neck cancers in marijuana smokers (Liang).

A 2015 meta-analysis of marijuana smokers in several countries published in the International Journal of Cancer found no increased risk of lung cancer in marijuana smokers (Zhuang).

A 2015 review in Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers found no increase in the risk of lung cancer but a slight positive association with testicular cancer in marijuana smokers (Huang, et al., 2015).

Cancer Risk Reduction Pyramid for Different Bud forms compared to Tobacco risk


Chart: The longer the bar, the safer the form of weed.   From safest to riskiest, it goes topical cannabis is safest, smoked cannabis most risky.

There are healthier and unhealthier ways to use marijuana. Anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests the most healthy way to use cannabis may be topical and edible preparations. These routes of administration and unlikely to cause an increased risk of lung cancer. They may also have some anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Cannabis oil is also expected to be fairly helpful. Cannabis oil can be taken sublingually under the tongue, on the skin, or eaten.

Vape may be a healthier way of taking marijuana for medical uses than smoking. Also, a nasal spray preparation of medical marijuana called Nabiximols (Sativex) is available in Canada and other countries. The nasal spray may be happier due to requiring less lung exposure. Although the reduced combustion of vaped marijuana is expected to cause less health risk increase than smoking, it has actually not been studied. There is a possibility vaping may increase the risk of popcorn lung and other lung ailments.

Smoking is probably the least healthy way to consume cannabis; however, many studies show no increased risk of lung cancer or COPD. It is clearly healthier than cigarette smoking.

Weed may contain Substances and Chemicals Which Can Help Prevent Cancer and other Health Dangers

weed benefits

You will notice in the chart, the decarboxylated (heated) forms of cannabinoids have different effects than the fresh forms. It may be useful medically to consume both types, heated marijuana, and fresh cannabis.

Second Hand Weed Smoke Risks

Second-hand smoke from marijuana presents the same risks as inhaling smoke from any combusting plant material. An increase in the risk of lung cancer has not been studied for second-hand marijuana smoke. However, a 2009 study found decreased endothelial function from second-hand weed smoke, an effect which also happens with tobacco smoke and is believed to increase the risk of heart disease (Wang, et al., 2016).

Also, it should be noted that smoking weed may introduce a less than zero risk of cancers and cardiovascular problems.  Therefore, it is not fair to smoke around others who have not agreed to take on such risk. Keep your smoke to yourself.

weed effects baby

Conclusion: Can u get lung cancer from smoking weed?

For the most part, no, there is a reduced risk of cancer compared to tobacco smoke. However, it’s likely any smoke whatsoever in the lungs may raise cancer risk. In marijuana, this risk seems to be reduced by anti-cancer properties of various cannabinoids and terpenoids. Therefore, do not take up smoking marijuana if you don’t want to take on a slightly increased cancer risk, and certainly don’t smoke around others who have not agreed to take on any cancer risk from your marijuana use. For medical indications, any increased risk may be offset by significant benefit. Lastly, marijuana may very slightly increase the risk of hypertension-related health events like kidney failure related to high blood pressure. You can learn about this on our site here:


DrugFacts: Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 22, 2018, from National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Finn, K. (2015). Sequelae of Cannabis as Medicine. Pain Medicine, 16(7), 1447-1449. Retrieved 10 22, 2018, from

Haney, M., Gunderson, E. W., Rabkin, J. G., Hart, C. L., Vosburg, S. K., Comer, S. D., & Foltin, R. W. (2007). Dronabinol and marijuana in HIV-positive marijuana smokers. Caloric intake, mood, and sleep. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 45(5), 545-554. Retrieved 10 22, 2018.

Huang, Y. H., Zhang, Z.-F., Tashkin, D. P., Feng, B., Straif, K., & Hashibe, M. (2015). An Epidemiologic Review of Marijuana and Cancer: An Update. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 24(1), 15-31. Retrieved 10 22, 2018, from

Ramer, R., Bublitz, K., Freimuth, N., Merkord, J., Rohde, H., Haustein, M., . . . Hinz, B. (2012). Cannabidiol inhibits lung cancer cell invasion and metastasis via intercellular adhesion molecule-1. The FASEB Journal, 26(4), 1535-1548. Retrieved 10 22, 2018, from

Tashkin, D. P., & Tashkin, D. P. (2009). Does smoking marijuana increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? Canadian Medical Association Journal, 180(8), 797-798. Retrieved 10 22, 2018, from

Wang, X., Wang, X., Derakhshandeh, R., Derakhshandeh, R., Liu, J., Liu, J., . . . Springer, M. L. (2016). One Minute of Marijuana Secondhand Smoke Exposure Substantially Impairs Vascular Endothelial Function. Journal of the American Heart Association, 5(8). Retrieved 10 22, 2018, from

Zhang LR, Morgenstern H, Greenland S, Chang SC, Lazarus P, Teare MD, Woll PJ, Orlow I, Cox B; Cannabis and Respiratory Disease Research Group of New Zealand., Brhane Y, Liu G, Hung RJ.Int J Cancer. 2015 Feb 15;136(4):894-903. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29036. Epub 2014 Jun 30.

This article about Medical Marijuana was published on and updated on December 8, 2020 . Medical facts in this article was checked and article was medically reviewed by our . Author of this checked article is
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