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Originally published February 23 2009

Breathing Incense Smoke Boosts Respiratory Cancer Risk

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Regular inhalation of incense smoke could increase the risk of a variety of respiratory cancers, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and published in the journal Cancer.

"This association is consistent with a large number of studies identifying carcinogens in incense smoke," the researchers wrote, "and given the widespread and sometimes involuntary exposure to smoke from burning incense, these findings carry significant public health implications."

Researchers interviewed 61,320 ethnically Chinese adults from the Hokkien or Cantonese dialect group living in Singapore on their patterns of incense use. The participants reported on how often they burned incense at home and for how long. All participants were between the ages of 45 and 74 and were free of cancer when the study began. After 12 years, 325 participants had developed upper respiratory cancers, while 821 had developed lung cancer.

The researchers found that people with heavier incense use were significantly more likely to develop an upper respiratory cancer, such as of the nose, mouth or throat. They were also significantly more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the respiratory lining. In particular, people who burned incense all day or all day and night had an 80 percent higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the whole respiratory tract.

No correlation was found between incense use and the risk of lung (lower respiratory) cancer. The correlations between upper respiratory cancers or squamous cell carcinoma and incense use held strong, however, even after the researchers adjusted for other risk factors such as smoking, diet and alcohol consumption.

Prior studies have indicated that when burned, incense gives off some substances that are known to be carcinogenic, including benzene and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. The researchers said that further investigations might determine whether certain types of incense are more likely than others to increase the risk of cancer.

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