The findings of a new study suggest that using e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” may result in cancer-causing DNA changes similar to those seen among people who smoke combustible cigarettes. This new study comes amid increasing concerns about the potential health risks of e-cigarettes, which have become the most popular form of tobacco use among teens and young adults in the United States. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer or another serious side effect and you believe vaping to be the cause, don’t hesitate to get legal help. Contact an experienced e-cigarette injury attorney as soon as possible to find out if you have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit against the e-cigarette manufacturing company for damages.
A number of studies published in recent years have raised concerns about the potential risk of nicotine addiction and other long-term side effects from e-cigarettes. In this latest study, published in the journal Epigenetics on February 5, a team of researchers from the Department of Preventative Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine found that cigarette smokers and e-cigarette users experience similar chemical changes in their DNA, which have been linked to the development of different tumors and types of cancer. Their methods included comparing the blood samples of 45 study participants who either vaped only, smoked cigarettes only, or did not smoke or vape at all (control group).
The study authors explained the significance of their research, stating that “The outbreak of vaping-related severe lung injuries and deaths and the epidemic of teen vaping in the U.S. underscore the urgent need for determining the biological consequences of electronic cigarette (e-cig) use.” In order to evaluate potential DNA changes in people who vape compared to people who smoke cigarettes, the researchers looked for epigenetic modifications, i.e. chemical alterations of the DNA that can cause genes to malfunction, in the blood samples they collected. Such chemical alterations are normally caused by aging, but they can also be caused by certain environmental factors, such as smoking.
In fact, previous research has shown that smoking cigarettes alters several genes that are associated with serious health problems in smokers, such as an increased risk for diabetes and cancer. More recently, researchers from the New York University School of Medicine found that vaping can cause DNA damage in mice, possibly contributing to an increased risk of lung cancer and bladder problems. In their study, the USC researchers tested the participants’ blood samples for changes in two specific chemical tags attached to DNA that are important for proper gene activity and/or function. Compared to the control group, the researchers found that the smokers and the e-cigarette users both had significant reductions in both chemical tags.
According to lead study author Ahmad Besaratinia, associate professor of preventive medicine at the USC’s Keck School of Medicine, this doesn’t necessarily mean people who vape are going to develop cancer. However, “what we are seeing is that the same changes in chemical tags detectable in tumours from cancer patients are also found in people who vape or smoke, presumably due to exposure to cancer-causing chemicals present in cigarette smoke and, generally at much lower levels, in electronic cigarettes’ vapour,”
The researchers say this is the first study to show that these DNA changes can be detected in the blood of people who vape, just as they can be detected in the blood of people who smoke. These findings should be considered of great importance to e-cigarette users in the United States, many of whom consider vaping to be safer than smoking and many of whom are merely teens. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 25% of high school students in the U.S. are current e-cigarette users. Due to the alarming increase in youth e-cigarette use nationwide, Besaratinia says this study could have immediate public policy implications.