Cannabis use linked to testicular cancer

February 18, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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The regular use of marijuana or cannabis seems to increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer. This is according to study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington and whose results were recently published in the journal Cancer.

The study looked at 369 men who had testicular cancer and 979 cancer-free men and interviewed them on marijuana use. Data analysis showed that marijuana use is a strong risk factor in the development of testicular cancer. This is the very first study to find the association between cannabinoid use and this type of cancer.

Previous studies have identified the following risk factors:

  • Genetics/family history
  • Injuries to the testicles
  • A childhood condition of undescended testicles

In recent years, the incidence of testicular cancer has been increasing especiallyin the US and Europe and no one knows the reason why.

According to Cancer Research UK, testicular cancer accounts for 1 to 2% of all cancers in males and occurs between the ages of 20 and 39. In the UK, 2000 cases are being reported each year. In the US, more than 8000 news cases have been reported in 2008, as well as 380 cases of death, according to the US National Cancer Institute (NIC).

There are two main types of testicular cancer (Source: NIC), namely:

Seminomas are cancer cellss that grow slowly and are sensitive to radiation therapy

Nonseminomas are different cell types that grow more quickly than seminomas and are more aggressive.

The current study showed that marijuana use is more associated with nonseminoma which is the more aggressive form of testicular cancer. Furthermore, the risk seems to be higher when cannabis used started at a very young age, e.g. younger than 18 years old.

This is rather disturbing because this is the stage when young men are wont to experiment when substances, including cannabis.

Marijuana is formally known as cannabis and comes from the leaves and flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa. Consumption of cannabis is usually through smoking. It is considered an illegal drug in many countries. The US FDA classifies cannabis under Schedule I substances because it has a very high potential for abuse and addiction.

The consumption of marijuana became popular in the 60s and 70s and this timeframe coincided with the increase in the incidence of testicular cancer. Larger studies are needed to confirm the link between cannabis use and testicular cancer.


Photo credit: stock.xchng

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