It is dangerous to inhale smoke from incense sticks

Incense sticks increase cancer of the upper respiratory tract

27.10.2008

Incense in the form of sticks or candles, from pans or vessels increase the risk of cancer in the upper respiratory tract - although apparently at least not in the lungs. This is the conclusion reached by researchers from the USA.

Incense sticks are traditionally mainly used in Asia, but have also become increasingly fashionable in Europe and the USA. Inhaling their smoke can evidently lead to the degeneration of epithelial cells in the upper respiratory tract - the cells that form the surface layer of the respiratory tract. As researchers around Jeppe Friborg from Masonic Cancer Center the University of Minnesota in the specialist journal Cancer (2008), Volume 113 (7), pages 1676 - 1684) report that incense sticks, incense cones, pans and vessels have been shown to increase the risk of cancer of the upper respiratory tract. People who spend long periods of time in rooms with incense sticks are more likely to develop so-called squamous cell carcinomas in the upper respiratory tract. The risk of lung cancer, however, remains unchanged, according to the researchers.

It has long been suspected that incense could have a carcinogenic effect. Because their smoke contains various known carcinogenic substances that can be mutagenic. However, it is not yet known which smoked products are particularly unhealthy. "If you only light an incense stick occasionally, you probably don't have to worry," says Dr. Michael Barczok from the Federal Association of Pulmonologists. However, anyone who keeps their chopsticks burning at home or who is permanently exposed to the smoke of Asian fragrance utensils during working hours will have to reckon with a significantly increased risk of cancer - even if there are no corresponding warnings on the packaging yet.