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Incense smoke linked to cancer

Regularly inhaling the smoke of incense sticks raises the risk of cancer.

Incense smoke linked to cancer

Regularly inhaling the smoke of incense sticks raises the risk of cancer. Incense sticks are an integral part of daily lives of many Asians. The burning of incense sticks produces smoke that contains many carcinogens, agents directly involved in the promotion of cancer. However, no earlier study had established any association between exposure to incense smoke and development of cancer. To investigate whether or not regular exposure to incense smoke contributes in the development of cancer, researchers from China followed 61,320 people aged between 45 and 74 years and free of cancer at the start of the study. The participants were interviewed about their living conditions and dietary and lifestyle factors. The participants reported on their typical incense use, including how often they burned it in their homes and for how long only at night, for instance, or all day and night. During the 12 years of follow up, 325 men and women developed cancer of the upper respiratory tract, such as nasal, oral or throat cancer and another 821 developed lung cancer. It was found that incense use was associated with a statistically significant higher risk of cancers of the upper respiratory tract, with the exception of nasopharyngeal cancer. However, no overall effect on lung cancer risk was observed. Moreover, those who used incense in their homes throughout the day and night were 80 percent more likely than non-users to develop squamous cell carcinoma (tumours that arise in the cells lining the internal and external surfaces of the body) of the entire respiratory tract. The above findings substantiate the effect of cancer promoting carcinogens in incense sticks. Further studies are expected to find out whether different types of incense are associated with different degrees of cancer risk.
Cancer
October 2008
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