Truth Behind ‘Vaping Causes Cancer’ Headlines

by : Julia Banim on : 01 Feb 2018 13:47
Wikimedia Commons

In the last few years, e-cigarettes have become an increasingly popular option for those who are trying to kick a harmful smoking habit.


However, vaping has recently been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons; with many media outlets warning readers it could potentially cause cancer.


This alarming assertion stems from a study which has been published in the scientific journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America (PNAS).

Here, scientists from New York University School of Medicine examined how vapour from e-cigarettes could damage the cells of lab mice, as well as human cells.


This study discovered how vapour increased DNA damage within the lungs, bladders and hearts of mice.

The molecular machinery cells required to heal DNA damage lost effectiveness when exposed to vapour.

Researchers also tested how nicotine can impact human lung and bladder cells which have been exposed to the vapour for the equivalent of 10 years.


The team found how nicotine did indeed damage these cells and made damage repair more difficult.

This study concluded:

These results indicate nicotine nitrosation occurs in the lung, bladder and heart and that its products are further metabolized into DNA damaging agents.

We propose ECS, through damaging DNA and inhibiting DNA repair, might contribute to human lung and bladder cancer as well as to heart disease, although further studies are required to substantiate this proposal.


A new science blog post from Cancer Research UK , written by News and Multimedia team member Michael Walsh, calls into question how these findings are being interpreted.

Walsh argues how this experiment did not actually test out the effects of e-cigs on human beings, with no direct comparison to smoking and tobacco smoke.

Although the post agrees it’s ‘technically possible’ e-cigarette smoke could contribute towards lung and bladder cancer; because the experiment did not look at human beings, meaning no effect was shown in terms of human health.

This post points out how, according to the evidence health experts have so far, said vaping is much less dangerous than smoking traditional cigarettes.

Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not include tobacco which is the largest cause of preventable fatalities internationally.

Furthermore, the blog post points out how vapers use e-cigarettes in a variety of different ways which this study does not reflect.

According to the blog:

Studies like this are important for building up the evidence around vaping and how e-cig vapour might damage cells in controlled conditions. It’s a small piece in the puzzle and must be viewed alongside other studies.

Large, long-term studies are also needed to definitively answer health questions, because those conclusions can’t be made from lab-grown cells and mice alone.


So conclusions around the health effects of vaping must be viewed alongside the damage smoking has wreaked for decades – only then can smokers make a call that could have a big impact on their health.

Find out more about vaping in the following clip:

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Very interesting stuff.

Find out more about stopping smoking here.

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Health


Cancer Research UK and 1 other
  1. Cancer Research UK

    Headlines saying ‘vaping might cause cancer’ are wildly misleading

  2. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America (PNAS)

    E-cigarette smoke damages DNA and reduces repair activity in mouse lung, heart, and bladder as well as in human lung and bladder cells