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Does Vaping Cause Lung Cancer?

While vaping was initially passed off as a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, there is no denying that vaping has negative health consequences. It has been linked to a variety of respiratory conditions, including lung cancer.

However, experts still do not fully know which components of e-cigarettes are responsible for negative health consequences. This means that vape users must be cautious and take a proactive approach to protect themselves from the dangers of lung cancer. Below, we discuss what we do know about the relationship between vaping and lung cancer.

Does vaping cause cancer?

Several studies suggest that using vape products can cause chronic inflammation in the tissues of the lungs. There is a strongly established link between inflammation and the development of cancerous cells.

Some substances that are used in vape juice are carcinogenic or have the potential to cause cancer. A prime example is diacetyl.

However, e-liquids contain dozens of other chemicals, as well. The long-term effects of these substances are not yet known.

Additional research is needed to understand all of the risks of prolonged vaping. But the initial data is quite concerning.

In addition to the dangerous chemicals outlined above, there is concern that some flavorings can cause lung damage. Needless to say, vaping is a risky habit that may drastically impact your health.

How does vaping work?

Whether you smoke traditional cigarettes or vape, the process involves inhaling a heated substance. The major difference between the two is what you are inhaling. Traditional cigarettes contain tobacco, while vapes are fueled by e-liquid or “vape juice.”

Vaping devices act much like a nebulizer. They turn a liquid into a vapor that saturates your lungs when you inhale. This process coats your lungs with potentially dangerous chemicals. Depending on the chemicals that are in your e-liquid, they may cause an inflammatory response in your lungs.

Common signs of lung cancer

Anyone that uses vaping devices must be aware of the signs of lung cancer. As with many other cancers, lung cancer treatments are much more effective when the condition is diagnosed and treated early.

The signs of lung cancer include the following:

●     New, persistent cough

●     Coughing up blood

●     Chest pain

●     Shortness of breath

●     Hoarseness

●     Unexplained weight loss

●     Chronic headaches

●     Bone pain

If you are experiencing these symptoms, schedule a diagnostic appointment as soon as possible.

Effects of secondhand vape

The lasting effects of inhaling secondhand vape smoke are largely unknown.  However, a case can be made that it is as dangerous as secondhand tobacco smoke.

If a loved one frequently vapes around you and the e-liquid contains harmful chemicals, then you will be exposed to those substances. The more frequently that you are exposed, the higher your risk of suffering lung damage will be. Avoid inhaling secondhand vape smoke whenever possible to mitigate these risks.

Common substances found in vape

Unfortunately, e-liquids vary greatly in terms of quality. They are not closely regulated, which increases the chances that you may be ingesting harmful chemicals.

Vape juice typically includes flavorings, nicotine or THC and aromatic scents. They may also include the following substances:

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is being investigated as a potential cause of respiratory issues. When used orally or as a topical supplement, vitamin E is perfectly safe. However, it is used as a delivery agent in many vape juices. High concentrations of vitamin E have been found in the lungs of patients who are suffering from severe lung damage.


Formaldehyde is extremely toxic. It can cause both lung and heart disease. Unfortunately, this dangerous substance is used in many vape juice products.


Acrolein is commonly used as a weed killer. However, it is also a known carcinogenic chemical and can cause lung damage.


Diacetyl is a popular food additive. It is used to make flavors of vape juice richer. However, it is also known to cause inflammation and popcorn lung.

What does vaping do to your lungs?

When you vape one or two times, the negative side effects are minimal. The real concern arises when you chronically use vape products. This is because you are repeatedly saturating your lungs with potentially carcinogenic substances.

Currently, vaping has been linked to several lung diseases, which include the following:

Popcorn lung

Diacetyl is one of the most dangerous chemicals found in many vape liquids. This substance is linked to a condition called “popcorn lung” or bronchiolitis obliterans (BO). BO was first linked to popcorn factory workers, which is where it got its name. Diacetyl was used as a food additive in order to simulate the flavor of butter in microwaveable popcorn.

Diacetyl damages the small airways in the lungs. It causes the air sacs to thicken and can lead to chronic inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can damage the DNA structure of lung tissue.

While more research is needed to determine the full effects of vape products, the impact of inhaling diacetyl is well known. In addition, there is a well-documented link between cancer and inflammation. This means that chronic vape users may be at an increased risk for developing lung cancer and other respiratory conditions.

Vaping-induced lipoid pneumonia

Typically, pneumonia is caused by an infection. Lipoid pneumonia is a bit different as it occurs when fatty acids invade the lungs. Vaping can cause lipoid pneumonia because the user is inhaling oily substances, which create an inflammatory response.

The symptoms of this condition include the following:

●     Shortness of breath

●     Chronic cough

●     Coughing up blood

Currently, the treatment protocols for this condition include supportive care. The primary goal of care teams when addressing lipoid pneumonia is to identify the cause and remove it. Once the source of the condition is removed, your lungs will begin to heal on their own.

Collapsed lung after vaping

Vaping has also been linked to a serious condition known as primary spontaneous pneumothorax. This ailment is more commonly referred to as a collapsed lung. It occurs when oxygen escapes through a hole in the lung.

Usually, primary spontaneous pneumothorax is caused by an injury such as a knife wound. An alternative cause of collapsed lungs involves air blisters. These blisters develop on the top of lungs and can rupture. When this happens, they create small tears in the lungs.

Traditionally, these blisters develop in taller, thinner individuals that had a rapid growth spurt. However, these blisters rarely create issues in otherwise healthy patients until they start vaping.

The lung inflammation caused by vaping has been linked to an increased risk of rupturing these blisters. This causes the patient’s lung to collapse.

Patients suffering from a collapsed lung will generally experience difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and/or sharp chest pains. Usually, rest and supplemental oxygen are all that a patient needs to recover.

Sometimes, patients may require advanced interventions such as the placement of a chest tube or even a surgical repair.

How AnMed Health can help

If you vape, it is essential that you are regularly screened for signs of lung cancer. Early diagnosis drastically improves treatment outcomes. If you think you may be at high risk for lung cancer, talk to your doctor about yearly screening CT scans or contact the AnMed Health Cancer Center at 864.512.4636 for more information.

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