Incense use has been common in East Asia for a long time, but also in the Western world incense burning is not uncommon. It became very much “in” to burn incense sticks to create a certain “atmosphere” in a room. Incense burning during religious celebrations in some churches is a custom that goes back well over 1000 years. It is easy enough to observe, how a cloud of incense triggers a chorus of coughing and clearing of throats in a church ceremony. It has never been a laughing matter to people who suffer of allergies and asthma, as incense smoke –just like any other smoke- is a source of airway irritation.
But a bit of a cough and airway irritation are the smaller problems that long term incense use has in store. A study involving 61,320 Singapore Chinese showed that long term users had more than twice the relative risk of non-nasopharyngeal cancers of the upper respiratory tract, compared with people who did not use incense. The risk of squamous cell carcinomas of the lung rose 1.7 fold and the risk of squamous cell carcinomas of the entire respiratory tract rose 1.8-fold among long-term incense users, wrote Dr. Fribourg and his colleagues of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis who conducted the study. The participants in the study were 45 to 75 years old and free of cancer when they enrolled in the study from 1993 to 1998. Living conditions, life style and dietary factors were examined and results were adjusted for a host of factors, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, gender differences, and intake of Chinese preserved food.
The researchers also noted that incense burning is deeply engrained into the way of daily living in Southeast Asia. About half of the population burns incense at home every day. Incense smoke contains a large amount of particular matter and the burning releases many possible carcinogens including polyaromatic hydrocarbons, carbonyls and benzene.
More information regarding nose cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/ear-nose-and-throat-diseases-otolaryngology-ent/nose-problems/nose-cancer/
Reference: First published June 21, 2007 and subsequently published in a 2008 journal.
Last edited November 2, 2014