Another setback for vapes? Devices can increase the risk of oral cancer in the same way that cigarettes do
Vaping use causes cancer-related oral DNA damage at the same rate as cigarette use, study finds.
The latest study by researchers from the University of the South California further driving home the idea that e-cigarettes like the Juul and PuffBar are a healthier alternative to smoking.
Changes in human DNA cause gene mutations, potentially activating oncogenes or mutated genes that can cause cancer. These genetic changes can also turn off tumor-suppressing genes.
Cancer is caused by DNA damage, also called gene mutations, that over time can stop working properly or get out of control and become cancerous.
This is not the first study to come to this conclusion. Canadian researchers found that mice exposed to flavored vapes suffered persistently severe cellular and molecular damage to their lungs.
DNA damage was higher among those who were more likely to smoke or who had smoked. It was also higher in vapers who used pods and mods, and vapes with sweet, fruity or mint flavors.
Vapers who regularly use e-cigarettes have seen as much DNA damage in their mouths as smokers of regular tobacco cigarettes, raising the specter of chronic diseases including cancer.
DNA damage was most acute in people who regularly used vapes filled with flavored e-liquids, meaning regular users of e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes are at particularly high risk.
Dr. Ahmad Bessaratinio, senior author of the study from USC, said: “For the first time, we have shown that the more vapers used e-cigarettes and the longer they used them, the more DNA was damaged in the cells of the oral cavity.”
Smoking exposes the cells that line the mouth, airways, and lungs to dozens of powerful chemical carcinogens.
Cells in parts of the body directly exposed to smoke is damaged most acutelywith 150 mutations detected in each lung cell over one year, 97 in the larynx and 39 in the oral cavity.
Acceleration of mutations increases the risk of developing cancer.
For their study, the researchers recruited 72 healthy adults and divided them into three groups: current vapers who had never smoked, current smokers who had never smoked, and people who had never smoked or never smoked.
The researchers recorded how often people used each device.
They then collected a sample of the epithelial cells that line the inside of the mouth and tested for damage to specific genes known to indicate damage to the genome.
Their tests showed the same level of DNA damage in vapers and smokers: 2.6 times and 2.2 times more than non-users, respectively.
Vapers using devices like the Juul were the most affected.
The flavored pods were the most ominous, causing the highest levels of DNA damage among users, although the researchers did not say specifically what flavorings made them more damaging to cells.
Although many brands of mint, fruit and dessert flavored vapes have been pulled from the market, the young people who most appeal to these products have still been able to purchase them.
Meanwhile, menthol vapes are still allowed over the counter.
He said: “The devices and flavorings that are most popular and used by young vapers, as well as adults, are associated with the most DNA damage.”
Their results are published in the journal Research on nicotine and tobacco claim to be the first to clearly distinguish between DNA damage caused by vapers and smokers, and to educate vaping users about the risks they face from habitual use of vapes and flavored e-liquids.
Young people who use e-cigarettes and other nicotine-containing vaping devices are at particularly high risk of developing device-related chronic diseases.
Adolescent brains are still developing, and each new memory, skill or lesson learned means that stronger connections are made between brain cells.
Because addiction is a learned behavior, teenagers can become addicted more easily than adults.
At least 2.6 million teenagers are captured for nicotine in e-cigarettes, and the vast majority — 85 percent — say they reach for flavored pods most often, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dr. Besaratinia said, “Clearly, these results have significant implications for both health care and regulatory authorities.”
Although considered by many to be safer than smoking, the long-term effects of vaping remain a mystery, and doctors fear that in the coming decades, people who take up the habit at a young age could experience a wave of lung, dental and problems and cancer.
Vape use was associated with lung damage and airway obstruction that can last for years even after you quit smoking. Scientists have also found that vapers almost twice as likely suffer from wheezing and difficulty breathing than non-smokers and non-e-cigarette users, similar to those living with asthma.