HIV-infected men who smoke marijuana for long periods of time are more likely to be diagnosed with lung disease, according to a study published Thursday by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The study tracked 2,704 men — half of whom were HIV positive; the other half were not — between 1996 and 2014 to determine whether their long-term use of marijuana had an effect on pulmonary disease diagnoses. Long-term use was defined as smoking marijuana for several years, according to a statement from Dana-Farber.
By the end of the study, the HIV-positive men were 54 percent more likely than HIV-negative men to be diagnosed with an infectious pulmonary disease, and 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a noninfectious pulmonary disease.
The study was published Thursday in the online journal EClinicalMedicine.
Scientists have noted that there are a variety of reasons that HIV-positive men could be more likely to develop lung disease, including their depleted immune system and chronic inflammation.
Dana Gabuzda, a researcher at Dana-Farber and the senior author of the paper, said in the statement that the study is the “largest investigation of smoked marijuana and risk of lung diseases in HIV-infected individuals to date.”
“Studies have shown that marijuana smoking is at least two to four times more prevalent among HIV-positive men than the general population,” she said. “It has been proposed that marijuana smoke is a potential risk factor for lung disease because it contains many of the same toxic chemicals as cigarette smoke. Previous studies that explored this question have produced inconsistent results.”
The authors of the study wrote that health care providers can help their HIV-positive patients by working with them to understand “the potential harm of marijuana smoking on lung health.”
The paper emphasizes that the study is strictly an analysis of marijuana use in a smoked form, not in any other form.
“Our findings highlight the need for research on the relative risks and merits of non-smoked versus smoked marijuana for medicinal and other purposes,” Gabuzda said.