As marijuana becomes legal in more states and increases in popularity, you may wonder how good it is for your lung health.

While there’s clear evidence that it may damage your lungs, researchers still aren’t sure whether smoking weed causes lung cancer.

Here’s what we know.

The short answer is maybe.

A 2013 study showed that heavy marijuana use over a long period of time may increase your risk of developing lung cancer.

Marijuana comprises more than 480 compounds, but the two main ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD):

  • THC is the main psychoactive component of marijuana, meaning it’s the ingredient that makes you feel “high.” THC interacts with receptors in your brain and can decrease pain as well as make you more forgetful or just more relaxed.
  • CBD is the part of marijuana that’s nonpsychoactive; it won’t get you high. In fact, using CBD may be a way to manage anxiety and may even lessen the effects of THC. CBD can be found in many forms, including beverages, essential oils, and even supplements.

Marijuana also containsbenzopyrene and benzanthracene. These are both known cancer-causing compounds that are also found in cigarette smoke.

Marijuana smoke contains about 50 percent more benzopyrene and about 75 percent more benzanthracene than cigarette smoke.

So, how do all of these compounds affect your lungs?

Well, it’s not necessarily the compounds themselves, but rather how the compounds are entering your body.

When you smoke marijuana, you’re inhaling smoke that contains toxins and other carcinogens. Carcinogens are substances that are known to cause cancer. These toxins and carcinogens are produced whenever something burns.

Many studies have shown that marijuana smoke contains the same toxins and cancer-causing agents that cigarette smoke contains.

On the flip side, there are also studies that show that THC and CBD may have anticancer properties. There’s not enough research to support this, but researchers are still exploring this idea.

There are a few different ways to smoke marijuana:

  • with a pipe
  • through a bong
  • in a paper-wrapped joint
  • through vaping

Any method of burning marijuana creates smoke, which contains carcinogens.

People who smoke marijuana tend to inhale more deeply and hold it, which increases your lung’s exposure to the cancer-causing ingredients in the smoke.

Research has shown that all methods of smoking marijuana have caused conditions including:

As vaping has become popular, there’s been more and more research into its effects on the lungs.

Vaping has been known to cause a condition known as popcorn lung. Popcorn lung happens when the small air sacs in your lungs collapse and become scarred.

This prevents them from exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, which is a vital process for your body. Left untreated, this can be life threatening.

Some people believe that vaping marijuana is safer because it’s not creating smoke, just vapor. This hasn’t been proven.

Vaporized marijuana has been shown to release ammonia, which can cause spasms and irritation in the small airways in your lungs. This can cause coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.

Secondhand marijuana smoke contains the same toxins and carcinogens that are present when you inhale it directly.

However, there’s no concrete evidence that secondhand marijuana smoke affects other people exposed to it.

Symptoms of lung cancer

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • shortness of breath (trouble breathing)
  • a cough that doesn’t go away
  • coughing up blood
  • chest pain

These symptoms can also be signs of other serious conditions. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Marijuana smoke contains many compounds that are known to cause cancer.

While there’s no research that directly links smoking marijuana to lung cancer, marijuana smoke contains many of the same compounds that are found in cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke is known to cause lung cancer.

Vaping is sometimes considered to be a safer way to smoke marijuana, but there’s no evidence to suggest that.

If you’d like to use marijuana but limit damage to your lungs, your best bet may be to eat it.