Can Smoking Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer

  1. Summary: Is smoking weed as bad for your lungs as smoking tobacco? 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 you get lung cancer from smoking weed? Answer: Unlikely.

marijuana vs tobacco

Figure 1. weed smokers lungs vs cigarette smokers lungs

Summary: Is smoking weed harmful for your lungs just like smoking tobacco?

Is there similarity between smoking weed and smoking tobacco? There are some studies that questioned the effects of smoking weed in the lungs. Studies showed that one of the risk factors of lung cancer is smoking tobacco or nicotine but smoking weed is different because researchers found out that there is no relationship between smoking weed and increasing risk of Lung cancer. Weed or Cannabis are from cannabinoids which is an anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant or also known as anti-cancer. Weed and Tobacco have different active ingredient that’s why even they are both being combusted or smoked, they have different results to our body specifically to the lungs.

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)
  • For more than a thousand years, Cannabis has already been used.
  • A study conducted in 2009 found the association between the use of marijuana and the decrease risk of head and neck cancer (Liang).
  • Laboratory experiments shows that a component with cannabis helps to slow the growth of tumor cells.
  • A cannabis spray called Nabiximols is used to treat cancer pain.
  • Studies find marijuana helpful for neuropathic pain.
  • Smoking marijuana alone is not the lead risk factor in developing COPD or emphysema (tashkin & tashkin, 2009).
  • Using cannabis or synthetic THC increases appetite of HIV patients which helps them to gain weight (Haney, et. Al. 2007)
  • Studies showed that lung function reduction appears to be less from smoking marijuana rather than tobacco.
  • Out of 7,000 chemicals that are found in tobacco, 250 from it may cause damage in the organs while 69 are carcinogenic.
  • The leading cause of cancer and preventable mortality is Tobacco.
  • Smoking tobacco increases the risk of getting cancer such as Leukemia and eye disorders like cataracts (DrugFacts: Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products, n.d).
  • Tobacco contains Nicotine which is known to be addictive.
  • In addition to increased risk of getting Cancer, smoking tobacco is also associated with heart disease such as heart failure.
  • The leading cause of Cancer is associated with the use of cigarette and tobacco.
  • Smoking cigarette is associated to danger to every major organ system in the body.
  • Cigarette smoking increases the inflammation in the body which results to damaged immune system.
  • Cigarette smoking can harm tissues in the lungs which alters the ability to function properly.

To summarize this table, there is a decrease risk in getting lung cancer when smoking marijuana as to smoking tobacco. Cannabis oil is now being used in the medical field to treat seizures, cancers, and to help malnourished or HIV patients to gain weight. As per smoking tobacco, it is still the leading risk factor to many illnesses especially to lung cancer. Cannabis is an anti-inflammatory while tobacco increases the inflammation in the body that results to damaged immune system.

Medical Study about THC and cannabis smoke effects on Lungs

A study published in 2006 in Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers didn’t show any increased risk of cancers associated with smoking weed (Hashibe 2006).

A study conducted in 2009 by Brown university found a decreased incidence both head and neck carcinoma in cannabis smokers (Liang.) as Marijuana has its anti-inflammatory and anti cancer effects on the body.

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

A 2015 review in Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers found that there is no associated 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.

The use of marijuana can be healthy or unhealthy. Anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that the best way to use cannabis is topical and edible preparations. The said route of administration are unlikely to cause a lung cancer injury. Cannabis oils have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant property which is also known as anti-cancer effect that is helpful for our body. Cannabis oils can be taken sublingually under the tongue, on the skin, or be 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. Some studies shows that there is a possibility that vaping may cause popcorn lung or other lung disorders.

Although smoking is the least healthiest way to take cannabis, numerous studies suggest no increased risk of lung cancer or COPD when done this way. It is unquestionably healthier than smoking cigarettes.

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. There is no study that relate second-hand marijuana to increase risk of lung cancer. 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?

According to several studies, there is no increased risk in lung cancer by smoking marijuana alone. Weed is derived from cannabis which is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effect that helps fight cancer cell which makes it as an anti-carcinogenic agent. It is different from smoking tobacco which is the leading risk factor to many diseases such as cancer. 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. The best way not to get lung cancer or any associated disease is by not smoking anything and start a healthy lifestyle so you can protect not only yourself but others in getting any illness. 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 October 27, 2022 . Medical facts in this article was checked and article was medically reviewed by our . Author of this checked article is
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