Can incense lead to lung cancer?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 11, 2007 4:48 PM GMT
    I know smoking cigs can lead to lung cancer because it is full of crap. Does that apply to smoke in general?

    If someone is constantly surrounded by incense smoke is that bad? Just curious.

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    Nov 11, 2007 5:09 PM GMT
    Not an expert but I think its the 2000 chemicals in a cig that can lead to cancer.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 11, 2007 6:37 PM GMT
    I don't think the occasional stick of incense is much of a health hazard, but the billowing clouds of incense smoke that sometimes accompanies various religious ceremonies and rituals are definitely a health hazard. There was a news story about it a few years ago.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 11, 2007 7:08 PM GMT
    Thanks guys. I usually open my windows after I use incense but I am a health freak and I might think twice about using incense before going to bed now.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 11, 2007 11:11 PM GMT
    get a candle
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 12, 2007 2:26 AM GMT
    i do light candles, but you still get smoke from them. I have a candle snuffer, but I still get smoke from them.
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    Nov 12, 2007 4:02 AM GMT
    Yes, hippie, but the smoke, while it can certainly irritate the lungs, doesn't necessarily cause cancer.

    Smoked tobacco causes lung cancer, but that results from both irritation and inflammatory changes from the smoke and heat, and then also the chemicals in the tobacco, and particularly nicotine that further promotes the development of cancer.

    So does incense cause cancer? Don't know, but just because it is smoke that you may inhale does not mean it necessarily increases your risk for lung cancer, and as with most cancer risk it is usually dose depedant as well ie. frequent extended use is more likely to increase ones risk than occasional.

    It would probably also depend on what other compounds are in the incense and would probably be specific for only ONE type of incense and the compounds it contained -- and while they may exist there are probably few, if any, studies looking at the incidence of lung cancer in people exposed to incense smoke.

    Bottom line inhaled smoke, and particularly with heat as in cigarettes, irritates the lung and can cause cellular change, but that in itself does not necessarily cause cancer.





  • atxclimber

    Posts: 480

    Nov 12, 2007 6:31 AM GMT
    Smoke is bad for you. The oxidized shit in the smoke is carcinogenic. This is true of all burnt material. Blackened catfish is carcinogenic. Seared steak is carcinogenic. Hippie's not a meat-eater, but even then, if you put asparagus on the grill, the charred lines on the asparagus stalk? Carcinogenic.

    As I understand it, the soot-carbon products of burning are all carcinogenic. That includes, to my knowledge, all smoke.

    Breathing near a campfire is carcinogenic. Standing near someone smoking a cigarette is carcinogenic.

    Breathing the air in a major city is carcinogenic.

    The smoke from incense, given that is true smoke, not some kind of steam or vapor or anything, is carcinogenic.

    Cigarettes are certainly *more* carcinogenic, and your body has a certain ability to eliminate free radicals at a given rate, depending on your diet (eat lots of, I dunno, pomegranate and maybe you can tolerate an extra stick of incense a day without ever getting cancer) but particles from smoke, in general, cause cancer.

    Good candles will burn with what is called a "complete" flame, which won't put off smoke because the flame is clean, burns everything, doesn't exude soot. That will be healthier, in general, but of course you can't get the same aroma from a candle as you can from incense, because the smokiness itself has an odor. (Just like I'm not going to stop searing my meat and braise it all, because the browning and blackening reactions produce flavorful molecules.)

    On a related note, if you're terribly concerned about this, it's a good reason to bake your weed into brownies or get a good vaporizer for it instead of burning it and inhaling the smoke. Because pot smoke, too, causes cancer.

    You can hardly swing a cat anymore without hitting something that causes cancer.
  • atxclimber

    Posts: 480

    Nov 12, 2007 6:55 AM GMT
    P.S. Being a health "freak" is fine, but it's important to also be scientific about it. I know a lot of practicing yogis, and it's been an ongoing trend in the yoga community to talk about "toxins" and try to eliminate them from one's life, but it's all very silly because it ends up being penny-wise and pound-foolish; people switch shampoos because they discovered their old brand had some minuscule amount of some metal that might be carcinogenic if absorbed through the skin in some much larger dose, but those same people still live in a major city, where simply breathing the air is probably 10,000 times more likely to give them cancer. But a lot of those same people totally lack the ability to weigh relative cost, and instead fixate on specific -- and, relative to the rest of their lifestyle, completely insignificant -- details.

    Hippie, given that you live on Long Island, I have to assume the general air pollution levels make it not really worth your while to worry about things like incense. Put another way, if you want to be healthy to the level where worrying about incense is significant, you should move to someplace with much better air quality first.
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    Nov 12, 2007 7:01 AM GMT
    I ask you though atxclimber what do you mean by carcinogenic, and even if a substance is labelled as such does that lead to an increased incidence of lung cancer ie. can you provide studies that indicate such for smoke in general let alone a specific type of incense?

    Yes, smoke can cause deleterious defects on the cellular level, and that has been well demonstrated in vitro to lung epitheleal cells, but that doesn't necessarily translate into a in vivo increased risk of cancer.

    As for marijuana no one has proved that marijuana smoke leads to an increased incidence of lung let alone any other cancer. Yes, the smoke has deleterious affects on lung cells in vitro, but I can provide you with recent well done studies that indicate no increased in vivo risk of lung cancer. Are the studies definitive and reproducible, I don't know, and probably not for certain at this point, but as for inhaled smoke per se causing an increased incidence of cancer, yes, for tobacco, but no definitive answer for other types of smoke at this time.
  • atxclimber

    Posts: 480

    Nov 12, 2007 7:38 AM GMT
    I dunno, man, the top result for Googling "incense cancer" is a BBC article about a Taiwanese study that said incense smoke contains a ton of cancer-causing chemicals and that,

    "Levels of one chemical believed to cause lung cancer were 40 times higher in a badly ventilated temple in Taiwan than in houses where people smoke tobacco."

    Not conclusive, of course -- "believed to cause" and all, and only one of the chemicals, but there are certainly studies, and the results certainly point in a particular direction.

    As for this: "smoke can cause deleterious defects on the cellular level." To my knowledge, tumors are specifically caused by cells that suffer deleterious damage to their DNA. So if you're willing to include DNA damage in the list of effects of smoke, then the free radicals in smoke can provoke tumors.

    Also, it's generally well-accepted that charred portions of food contain cancer-causing chemicals. See McGee, _On Food and Cooking_, considered an authoritative reference on, well, food and cooking. He cites references.

    And smoke is that burnt material propelled airborne.

    I haven't seen the marijuana-related studies you're talking about, but I just can't understand how inhalation of all kinds of smoke could *not* be correlated to increased cancer risk.



  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 12, 2007 8:06 AM GMT
    The following atxclimber is pretty much everything you can find from 1990 to now of abstracts on pubmed -- at least that is what the following references will send you to. I have read a number but not all the complete articles listed below. Some are well done and some are of varied quality, and some biased towards and some against, but do demonstrate that there is a definate quesiton about marijuana and increased incidence of cancer, and if you read them the older studies tend to assume such a risk, and the more recent ones vaguer.

    Does this lead to cancer or not? I can't say, but the question exists, and does damage to cells necessarily lead to cancer, or does it lead to cell death? -- and in the case of tobacco there are compounds that may specifically inhibit cell death letting damaged cells live and develop to cancer.

    Again I'm not saying that smoke is not harmful, but that doesn't mean it causes cancer, and that what causes cancer in vitro may not in vivo, or at least in doses that you may be exposed to it in vivo.

    And I would be curious to see the Tawainese study, and what compounds and what it exactly it looked at.

    ttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17621270&ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17409920&ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17035389&ordinalpos=5&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=16832000&ordinalpos=6&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=16232311&ordinalpos=8&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=16128224&ordinalpos=10&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=16054989&ordinalpos=11&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=12412843&ordinalpos=16&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=11084527&ordinalpos=20&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=10363083&ordinalpos=22&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=10363083&ordinalpos=22&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=10363083&ordinalpos=22&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=7776850&ordinalpos=28&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=7776850&ordinalpos=28&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
  • MikemikeMike

    Posts: 6932

    Nov 12, 2007 11:38 AM GMT
    be like Clinton don't inhale!
  • zakariahzol

    Posts: 2241

    Nov 12, 2007 12:37 PM GMT
    If you are in the tropical country of Asia living the traditional way, you will come across a mosquito coil that are use to get rid of mosquitoes . As a kid, it was my duty routine in my family to light one and its will last till morning. The coil is green colour and make from the mosquitous plants and when burn will produce a smell , make mosquitoes goes away. The room will fill with the incense smell and give it a homely smell and make us sleep. Lately , the new research show that this incense and its smoke are very unhealthy. When we inhale it, the sap of the original plant will stick to our lung , just like a cigarate with a smokers.

    However modern invention of smokeless electric ,mosquitoes coil have replace the older traditional coil. It much more cleaner, healthier but then the home smell of a traditional home are no more.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 12, 2007 2:19 PM GMT
    Marijuana puts 4 times the tar in your lungs in a single joint then you would get from a 4 cigerettes
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 12, 2007 2:48 PM GMT
    ^ My doctor says a few hours spent outdoors in NYC is as bad for you as a single cigarette.
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    Nov 12, 2007 3:04 PM GMT
    I agree that air pollution is probably one of the biggest health risks we are facing as a population today.

    I am not majorly concerned about incense, but I just was wondering because I do enjoy using it. Yesterday I burned some sage and I found myself coughing up the rest of the day

    Atxcliber: "Smoke is bad for you. The oxidized shit in the smoke is carcinogenic. This is true of all burnt material. Blackened catfish is carcinogenic. Seared steak is carcinogenic. Hippie's not a meat-eater, but even then, if you put asparagus on the grill, the charred lines on the asparagus stalk? Carcinogenic."

    It definitely is true that eating burnt food of any kind is highly carcinogenic and dangerous and should be avoided as much as possible. But I am not sure this applies to the air we breathe from incense. Isn't the burned food, a chemical and molecular change within the food itself that makes it dangerous?

    Also, I think incense that is just chemicals that you buy dirt cheap by the dozen is probably unhealthy. I only buy actual natural incense. So it is 100% pure essential oil and natural products.

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    Nov 12, 2007 3:29 PM GMT
    Just have some taco bell. That should take your mind off the worry over incense icon_razz.gif
  • Alan95823

    Posts: 306

    Nov 12, 2007 3:59 PM GMT
    hippie, if the sage is making you cough, my suggestion is to burn less of it.

    I blend my own incense from dried herbs and burn them on a block of charcoal, been doing it for 20+ years. The only time I've had something make me cough is when there was so much smoke in the room it set off the smoke detector. If you're using resins in your blends like frankincense or myrrh, they may be contributing to your coughing. Try cutting the amount back.

    Incense smoke is much more diluted than smoke you inhale directly from the source, like pipes/cigarettes, but it's still an irritant and could possibly be a risk factor for lung cancer. You just have to decide if it's worth it.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 12, 2007 4:19 PM GMT
    "Just have some taco bell. That should take your mind off the worry over incense"

    No thanks, the carcinogens in meat are far deadlier, plus the saturated fat, cholesterol, and all the other crap that goes into making dead animal products. Plus Taco Bell is owned by Yum Brands the lovely owners of KFC. "Kentucky Fried Cruelty"

    check it out: http://www.kentuckyfriedcruelty.com

    Alan I agree I think it is a decision weighing risks/benefits, I will still use incense but be more careful ie: using it less, opening windows, and not using it before bedtime. Thanks for your suggestions.
  • Alan95823

    Posts: 306

    Jan 05, 2008 6:54 AM GMT
    I think it also depends on the reason you're burning incense, and the frequency.

    If you're doing it for ritual, then chances are you're not doing it that often, which would lower the risk.

    If you're doing it to counteract the smell of the catbox, clean the box more often and burn less incense icon_smile.gif

    But if you're doing it just because you like the smell, cut back... experiment with essential oil blends and light bulb rings, it has a similar effect and doesn't cause the coughing in my experience.

    I tried anointing candles for ritual with pure essential oils that were appropriate for the element and working, and it worked beautifully without generating any smoke at all. However, essential oils are more expensive than incense, so that might make it more difficult to switch. (I once spent an entire tax refund on essential oils, but they lasted for years so I think it was worth it.)
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    Jan 14, 2008 2:54 PM GMT
    yes, and i'm talking about work related. The incense makers get lung cancer as guarantee 90% of the time. But as for incense burning in a room, I guess depend on how thick the smoke there is. Obviously can't compare to the making of incense.
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    Apr 25, 2008 4:35 PM GMT

    Welcome back, Hippie, and thanks for helping me spit my morning coffee all over the monitor. I'm not a doctor, but i'm pretty sure you can't get cancer from incense, unless you smoke 10 bushels of it a day. LOL...incense...HA!