Hookah Increases Leukemia Risk

Hookah Increases Leukemia RiskHookah Increases Leukemia Risk

Smoking hookah, a type of flavored tobacco, is quickly becoming a popular pastime for many. Now a new study from San Diego State University warns it could lead to an increase in cases of leukemia.

Researchers found that hookah smoke doubles exposure to the dangerous carcinogen benzene, which numerous studies show is responsible for several types of deadly cancers, including leukemia.

Benzene is a toxic element found in tobacco and charcoal that the U.S.

National Toxicology Program classifies as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it’s been proven to cause cancer in humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported there is no safe level of exposure for the chemical.

The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, analyzed the levels of s-phenylmercapturic acid (SPMA), a metabolite of benzene, from urine samples of 105 hookah smokers and 103 nonsmokers.

Results showed the amount of SPMA in hookah smokers increased 4.2-fold after smoking hookah tobacco at a lounge and increased 1.9-fold after smoking in a private home.

The non-smoking participants also showed a 2.6-fold increase in benzene intake.

 Adverse Effects

Study author Dr. Nada Kassem, associate director at the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health at San Diego State University, told she wasn’t surprised to find the benzene increase in non-smokers in the study. Kassem said the major conflict behind the study is that so many hookah smokers don’t realize the adverse health effects.

 It’s widely accepted by the public that the drug is safer than cigarettes for several reasons, which include: Smoking process: Hookah tobacco smoke is passed through water before it is inhaled, leading to the conclusion that water dissolves the toxic chemicals found in hookah tobacco smoke.

Smoke temperature: Hookah smoke becomes cooler when passed through water giving the impression that it is not harmful.

Flavoring: The sweet aroma of flavored hookah tobacco smoke leads to an illusion that it is harmless.

 Packaging: Packages of hookah tobacco portray large images of fruits that may create a false impression that it is less harmful than other tobacco products. They also showcase misleading ingredient statements, claiming hookah contains no tar and very little nicotine.

“These labels may mask the adverse health consequences of smoking hookah tobacco,” Kassem said. She added that health professionals need to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking hookah.