The debate over vaping’s longer-term health implications is still raging, and for justifiable reason. According to the NHS, smoking is well established as being a direct cause of several different cancers, and with vaping sharing many similarities in terms of inhaling a nicotine-containing substance, many people wonder if it may present similar risks.
While the data around the risks of smoking is concrete at this point in history (you can explore more about these risks in our guide finding the right alternative.), Vaping is still fairly light on the ground by comparison.
It is recognised by most significant parties like the NHS, Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, and beyond, that more long-term studies must be allowed to conclude before we can draw any accurate claims about the relationship between vaping and cancer.
The data we do have available (see our sources) however suggests a few things that it is worth noting, particularly as someone who may be attempting to understand the risks associated with vaping before considering it as an alternative to cigarettes.
Throat and oral cancers are some of the most commonly associated with Smoking, and as a result are often asked about in relation to vaping. We’ve explored vaping’s general relationship with cancer in our blog Vaping & Cancer, however read on as we focus on the different types of throat cancer.
What is Throat Cancer?
It is important to note that while the throat seems like a small area, it is actually made up of different areas, from which different types of ‘throat’ cancer can originate. While these areas and their associated cancers are different, many of the symptoms overlap with each other and some comparatively benign illnesses, including:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Voice changes
- Persistent sore throat
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swelling of the eyes, jaw, throat, or neck
Bleeding in the mouth or nose
- Chronic cough
- Ear pain
- Lumps in the neck or throat that aren't swollen lymph nodes
*Please remember – experiencing any of the above symptoms does not always mean you have cancer, if you have concerns about any aspect of your health, speak to your GP.
This refers to cancer of the larynx. The larynx is an organ that sits on the top of the trachea, where it assists with breathing, speaking and swallowing.
The Pharynx is a cone-shaped passage in the throat which begins behind the nose and carries on for about 5 inches until it meets the oesophagus/trachea.
Pharynx cancer is sometimes further classified as cancer of the nasopharynx, oropharynx, or hypopharynx, depending on its exact location.
The nasopharynx is the upper part of the throat behind the nose. The oropharynx is at the back of the mouth and includes your soft palate as well as the backmost third of your tongue.
Most throat cancers are treated using surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. All of which can be quite debilitating treatments in of themselves.
Will Vaping Cause Throat Cancer?
At this time, there is no conclusive evidence to support vaping as a direct cause of any kind of cancer, including in the throat. Certain studies have found however, that there could be an indirect increase to the risk of developing cancer, although this is different to smoking which is a direct cause.
The main issue with these studies however, is that they are not representative of real-world vape use, instead being based on animal models.
Cancer Research UK states:
“Some studies have shown harmful effects of e-cigarette vapour. However, these are usually conducted on animals or cells in the lab, rather than in people. And the concentrations of e-cigarette vapour used are often much higher than people would be exposed to in real life.”
“Whilst these studies are useful to explore the potential effects of e-cigarettes, they shouldn’t be used to estimate real-world impact in humans.”
Acknowledging the relative risk of vaping vs vaping, they say:
“Some potentially dangerous chemicals have been found in e-cigarettes. But levels are usually low and generally far lower than in tobacco cigarettes. Exposure may be the same as people who use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as patches or gum.”
“There is no good evidence that vaping causes cancer.”
“But e-cigarettes are not risk-free. They have only become popular recently, so we don’t know what effects they might have in the long term. They should only be used to help you stop smoking, or to stop you going back to tobacco. If you have never smoked, you shouldn’t use e-cigarettes.”
In time, we hope the organisations conducting vaping trials will consider using more realistic methods, generating data we can actually draw clearer conclusion from in order to truly understand the longer-term impacts of vaping.
Until this can be achieved, the leading theory is that vaping presents 95% less risk than smoking (Public Health England) and according to Cancer Research UK (see our sources) making the switch from cigarettes to vapes should reduce your overall risk of cancer*.
Regardless of this, those who have never vaped or smoked before should never start, it should be used as a harm reduction tool.
With over 7 years within the vaping industry, Ian has amassed a wealth of knowledge that is unparalleled throughout the industry. His knowledge extends beyond e-liquids and devices, but covers safety and compliance as well as best practice and more to name but a few.