Study: Can Vaping Lead To Lung Cancer?

A new study has linked vaping to lung cancer after testing it on mice.
PHOTO: istockphoto ILLUSTRATION: Mixi Ignacio

People often believe that smoking e-cigarettes (or vaping) is safer than the real thing. But is it? A new study, published on October 7, 2019 by researchers from New York University (NYU), found a link between vaping and lung cancer in mice. 

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and was led by Moon-shong Tang, PhD, of NYU School of Medicine.

It involved exposing 40 mice to e-cigarette smoke with nicotine and 20 mice to e-cigarette smoke without nicotine for 54 weeks over the course of four years. Nine of the 40 mice, or 22.5 percent, developed lung adenocarcinomas. In contrast, none of the 20 mice developed cancer. Out of the 40, 23 mice developed bladder hyperplasia, which is associated with tissue growth related to cancer.

Dr. Tang told CNBC, "It's foreseeable that if you smoke e-cigarettes, all kinds of disease come out...Long term, some cancer will come out, probably. E-cigarettes are bad news."

Dr. Tang admitted that the study had its limitations. For instance, the mice were exposed to smoke outside of their body, instead of inhaling it like one would through smoking or vaping. The sample size was also too small. 

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Additionally, it's important to remember that the study involved mice, not humans: "Our study results in mice were not meant to be compared to human disease, but instead argue that e-cig smoke must be more thoroughly studied before it is deemed safe or marketed that way," explained Dr. Tang. 

So where do we go from here? The author of the study, Herbert Lepor, MD, the Martin Spatz Chair of Urology at NYU Langone Health, said, "Our next step in this line of work will be to expand the number of mice studied, to shorten and prolong e-cigarette exposure time, and to further investigate the genetic changes caused by e-cigarette smoke."

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