Photo illustration by Benjamin Zawilski

Connecting Cannabis and Cancer

New study links smoking cannabis with testicular cancer
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New study links smoking cannabis with testicular cancer

Those attending Humboldt State University who smoke marijuana regularly may want to rethink their habit.

Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the United States, and a large part of its popularity as a recreational narcotic comes from the perception that it has very few, if any, long-term health effects. There are, in fact, several positives that are associated with the drug, such as help with depression or anxiety, easing of muscle soreness and a reducing of the number of seizures experienced by people with epilepsy.

“When you combust any plant, you’re creating significantly more carcinogens.”

Dr. Jeffrey Chen

However, despite its positive effects, a recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association has identified a link between marijuana use in people with male reproductive organs and an increased risk of testicular cancer. The study explained that burning marijuana (which is necessary to smoke it), like burning any plant, triggers the release of carcinogens, which, in this case, may lead to testicular germ cell tumor.

“When you combust any plant, you’re creating significantly more carcinogens,” Dr. Jeffrey Chen explained to Science Alert.

The study also analyzed potential connections between recreational marijuana use and lung cancer, oral cancer and head and neck cancer. However, JAMA did not find any connections to any of those cancers.

The meta-analysis in the data collected by JAMA is specific to white men, leaving out a large part of the global population. Many of their findings also date back as far as 1973.

There also isn’t a direct causality from marijuana to cancer over a wide range of the population. The American Association for Cancer Research has identified many of the victims of cancer as having used marijuana heavily. However, there is still no evidence of other variables, who else might be at risk or other drugs that might increase or minimize said risk.

These studies so far are limited in the information they provide, and should not be taken as the final word on any and all links between cannabis and cancer. However, it does contribute to the ongoing discussion of the health effects of the drug, and those who do use it may want to sit up a little straighter and take some notice.

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