Background: Cannabis is the most widely consumed illicit drug worldwide and the relation between cannabis smoking and lung cancer is suggestive, albeit inconclusive.
Method: We conducted three hospital based case-control studies in Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, three areas of high prevalence of cannabis consumption as well as production. This paper presents the pooled analysis of these three studies restricted to men with a total of 430 cases and 778 controls.
Results: Ninety-six percent of the cases and 67.8% of the controls were tobacco smokers and 15.3% of the cases and 5% of the controls were ever cannabis smokers. All cannabis smokers were tobacco users. Adjusting for country, age, tobacco smoking, and occupational exposure, the odds ratio (OR) for lung cancer was 2.4 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.6-3.8) for ever cannabis smoking. This association remained after adjustment for lifetime tobacco packyears as continuous variable, OR = 2.3 (95% CI: 1.5-3.6). The OR adjusted for intensity of tobacco smoking (cigarette/d) among current tobacco smokers and never cannabis smokers was 10.9 (95% CI: 6.0-19.7) and the OR among current tobacco users and ever cannabis smokers was 18.2 (95% CI: 8.0-41.0). The risk of lung cancer increased with increasing joint-years, but not with increasing dose or duration of cannabis smoking.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that cannabis smoking may be a risk factor for lung cancer. However, residual confounding by tobacco smoking or other potential confounders may explain part of the increased risk.