Vaping to quit ciggies ups lung cancer risk

2 minute read

Long-term data on e-cigarette risks is coming in, and it’s not looking good.

Out of the frying pan, into … another frying pan.  

That’s the message of research presented at the American Thoracic Society 2024 International Conference in San Diego this week which found that cigarette smokers who switch to vaping have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, and of dying from it, than quitters who don’t take up e-cigarettes. 

“Our results indicate that when integrating smoking cessation interventions to reduce lung cancer risk, the potential harms of using e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking must be considered,” says author Dr Yeon Wook Kim from Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, in Seongnam. 

The Korean researchers looked at records for 4.3 million cigarette smokers from two time periods of Korea’s National Health Screening Program – 2012-2014 and 2018, following them up until 2020. Some of the people studied smoked e-cigarettes after quitting tobacco cigarettes, and some quit without taking up e-cigarettes. The risk of developing lung cancer was assessed for people in both groups, further divided into whether they’d abstained from tobacco cigarettes for five years or more, or under five years. 

Of the 4.3 million people in the study, 53,354 developed lung cancer and 6351 died from it. 

Vapers who’d quit smoking five or more years earlier had 2.7 times the risk of dying from lung cancer than ex-smokers of the same quit duration who didn’t vape. 

Vapers whose last cigarette was within the last five years had a 23% higher risk of developing lung cancer than their non-vaping counterparts, and a 71% higher chance of dying from it. 

The impact of vapes is also seen in ex-smokers aged 50-80 who had smoked for 20 or more years. Those who had quit five or more years ago by switching to vapes had a 65% higher risk of developing lung cancer and were more than 4.5 times as likely to die from it than their counterparts who quit without e-cigarettes. Those who had quit within the last five years with vapes had a 25% higher risk than those who’d quit without them. 

“Switching to e-cigarette use after conventional smoking cessation was associated with a higher risk of lung cancer and related mortality, particularly in high-risk individuals who are likely recommended for low-dose CT-based screening,” the researchers say.  

American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2024, online 1 May 

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