Vaping has rapidly grown in popularity over the last few years, evolving from a new idea that many people were sceptical of to a billion pound phenomenon. But there are still plenty of questions and rumours surrounding vaping.
A lot of research has been done into the effect of vaping and many people, including organisations like Public Health England, accept the findings that vaping is significantly safer than smoking. Vaping has also been shown to almost double the chances of smokers quitting for good and statistics suggest that vaping isn’t a gateway to taking up tobacco products.
But there are many out there who continue to believe that vaping is just as harmful as smoking, despite the evidence. Cancer is the biggest health risk when it comes to tobacco products, with nearly half of the people who die from smoking related illness being killed by cancer.
So, what do we know about vaping and cancer? There have been multiple scientific studies into the effects of vaping and one recent report suggest that vaping may affect DNA which could increase the risk of cancer. But this research comes from just one study and contradicts other reports into the effects of vaping.
More research needs to be done into the long term effects of vaping to give us a more reliable idea of how healthy or dangerous it is. Let’s take a look at this recent study into vaping and DNA as well as other research that has been carried out.
The researchers set out to identify the chemicals created when e-liquid is turned into vapour as well as evaluating any DNA damage that those chemicals might cause.
We already know from previous studies that burning tobacco in cigarettes produces a greater number of carcinogenic chemicals than vaping. But the research team wanted to use mass spectrometry to get a better idea of which chemicals were involved and in what quantities.
The study used a small number of test subjects, just five vapers, who had samples of their saliva taken after fifteen minute vaping sessions. These saliva samples were then analysed, looking for carcinogenic chemicals known to damage DNA.
Researchers identified increased levels of formaldehyde, acrolein and methylglyoxal, three chemicals known to damage DNA. The study also found that four of the five test subjects showed increased DNA damage compared to non-vapers. This damage is known as DNA adduct and has the potential to lead to cancer if the cells don’t repair the damage.
The researchers intend to follow up the initial study with a larger group of subjects. Their intention is to get a better understanding of how the level of DNA damage differs between vapers and smokers. Hopefully this future research will give us a clearer answer on how vaping affects DNA and how safe vaping is when compared to smoking.
In recent years a lot of research has been done into the effect of vaping using both living human lungs and cultures of lung cells. Although studies that involve exposing cultured cells to e-cigarette vapour or condensed liquid are less reliable than using living lungs, they have produced some interesting results.
Two studies using cultured cells found signs of inflammation in cells exposed to e-cigarette vapour while another study found no inflammation and no damage to DNA. Research has shown that cigarette smoke consistently causes damage to DNA which can lead to cancer, but research into vaping has not yet shown consistent results.
Another study using cultured cells found that exposure to cigarette smoke can cause four to eight times more damage than exposure to e-cigarette vapour. More research needs to be done to give us more solid conclusions, but so far it looks like vaping is still significantly less dangerous than smoking.
Research into long term effects
The lack of long term evidence is something that critics of vaping often bring up. Because vaping as we know it today has only been around for just over a decade, there isn’t the same history of research and evidence that we have for tobacco products.
But that is already starting to change as the results of the first long term studies into vaping are starting to be published.
The first long term study to release their results used a group of vapers who had never smoked and evaluated them over forty-two months. This study measured the vapers’ lung function, respiratory symptoms, carbon monoxide, exhaled breath and high-resolution computed typography of the lungs.
The study found no decrease in lung capacity, no development of respiratory symptoms, no change in lung inflammation and no early lung damage.
This was just one study that wasn’t specifically looking for evidence of damage to DNA, but the results are encouraging. This was just the first long term study, but more are being carried out all the time so in the future we will have a much better understanding of how vaping affects our bodies.
The results of the study into vaping and DNA damage suggest that vaping may increase the risk of cancer. But this is just the results of one small study using five test subjects and other research has come to different conclusions. More research into the long term effects of vaping is needed before we can fully understand how vaping affects DNA.
The research shows that e-cigarette vapour contains small amounts of chemicals that can damage DNA. Research has also shown that smoking produced significantly more of these chemicals.
Organisations like Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians agree that vaping is around 95% safer and proven to help smokers quit for good.
We have only recently started to get the results of long term studies into the effects of vaping and so far the findings are not yet conclusive. More research needs to be carried out to give us a better idea of how vaping affects DNA and the risk of cancer.