Just months after a team of neuroscientists found that frankincense biochemically relieves anxiety, a new team of researchers have come forward to say that there is a link between heavy incense use and respiratory cancers.
“In a study of more than 61,000 ethnic Chinese living in Singapore who were followed for up to 12 years, the investigators found a link between heavy incense use and various respiratory cancers. The findings are published in the medical journal Cancer.”
So just how much incense burning constitutes “heavy” usage?
“Study participants who used incense in their homes all day or throughout the day and night were 80 percent more likely than non-users to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the entire respiratory tract. The link between incense use and increased cancer risk held when the researchers weighed other factors, including cigarette smoking, diet and drinking habits.”
In other words, the occasional stick of incense at home or at a ritual probably won’t give you cancer, but if you live in a constant haze of sweet smelling smoke, you might want to cut back a bit (especially if you have other increased risk factors). The study also said that incense posed no overall effect on lung cancer risk, but increased risks of upper respiratory cancers.
“This association is consistent with a large number of studies identifying carcinogens in incense smoke,” Friborg’s team writes, “and given the widespread and sometimes involuntary exposure to smoke from burning incense, these findings carry significant public health implications.”
So with incense, as with many other things, moderation is the key. Treated as a spiritual tool, and not as a daily air freshener, most people should be safe from increased cancer risk. You won’t be imperiling anyone’s life with cancer if you “light up” at your next ritual gathering.