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Past studies have indicated Cannabis to have anti-carcinogenic properties

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all used it (although Clinton did not inhale).  Over 17 million Americans (appr. 5.5 percent of all Americans) use it a year, including one out of ever five college students [source].  And 50 percent of Americans now think it should be legal, according to Gallup polling [source].  But marijuana, since 1938, has been illegal in the U.S.

I. Marijuana and Tobacco Show Nearly Identical Testicular Cancer Risks

Amid the growing calls to legalize America's favorite illegal drug, comes a study that's sure to draw mixed reactions.  The research -- done by medical researchers at the University of Southern California -- suggests a correlation between smoking marijuana and testicular cancer.

Past studies have indicated there is no real correlation between alcohol -- one of America's most popular legal drugs -- and testicular cancer.  However, studies have shown similar correlations [abstract] between smoking tobacco -- also a legal drug in the U.S. -- and testicular cancer.  Current research has been unable to establish the method of causation for the tobacco-testicular cancer link.

Likewise, the study on marijuana users found a correlation between testicular cancer and use, but did not establish a causative route.  The study suggests the body's endocannabinoid system -- which is excited by compounds in marijuana -- may be involved in raising risks of this specific cancer.

Marijuana Mexico
Studies have shown smoking marijuana [Image Source: AFP]

The current study only examined smoking marijuana.  Past studies [abstract] have shown marijuana use (of any kind) lowers the risk of some cancers and degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's.  Thus an important question going ahead is to examine whether alternative forms of consumption (e.g. marijuana edibles) offer the same testicular cancer risk.

So how much do marijuana and tobacco appear (correlation) to raise the risk of testicular cancer?

The 2007 study on tobacco reveals, "The synthesis of our results suggests that smoking about a pack a day for ∼20 years increases one’s risk of testicular cancer ∼2-fold."

Likewise, the marijuana study showed nearly identical results when age and ethnicity were held constant. Smokers of marijuana were twice as likely to get a particular kind of testicular cancer -- mixed-germ cell tumors.  Mixed-germ cell tumors include the often lethal non-seminona tumors.  The marijuana study relied on querying the drug use history of 292 healthy adult men and 163 adult men with cancers.

II. Causation -- as With Tobacco -- is Undetermined

While causation is unclear, the study's lead author Dr. Victoria Cortessis says the risks should be takens seriously.  She remarks to NBC News, "The group that is at risk for developing these tumors is overwhelmingly young men. They should be looking and paying attention to changes in their testicles anyway.  The truth is, the vast majority of men who develop testicular germ-cell tumors survive them. There's still a small proportion that don't. Those guys tend to have non-seminonas, unfortunately.  But also, non-seminomas require more extensive treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy."

"We're not concerned only with preventing non-seminomas so that the malignancy doesn't harm the man, but we're also concerned about the later health effects for men that may be related to the more-aggressive therapy."

Gonadoblastoma, a mixed-germ cell testicular tumor [Image Source: Nephron/Wikipedia]

Both the marijuana and tobacco studies have suggested that quitting use did not decrease risks among those who chronically used at some period in their life.

In the study, published [abstract] in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Cancer, she and her fellow researchers write:

The findings suggest that the potential cancer-causing effects of marijuana on testicular cells should be considered not only in personal decisions regarding recreational drug use, but also when marijuana and its derivatives are used for therapeutic purposes.

Marijuana is legal for medical use in 17 states, including USC's home state of California, despite being illegal for medical use at a federal level.

III. Results are Immaterial to the Legalization Debate, but Are Important

Aside from the lack of understanding regarding the route of causation some marijuana advocates complain the findings are inconsistent with the past studies that showed that marijuana lowers the risk of certain kinds of cancers.

However, advocates need to realize that it is quite possible that marijuana lowers the risk of some cancers, while raising the risk of testicular cancer -- hence is the complex nature of the human body.

And while the study is receiving much scrutiny from the perspective of legalization, ultimately the study's impact on that issue should be immaterial.  After all, the correlation observed is almost identical to that seen with tobacco smokers, yet tobacco is legal to use among those older than 18 in the U.S.

Smoking marijuana or tobacco likely raise you risk of testicular cancer, though each may provide some other benefits. [Image Source: Universal Pictures]

Part of the confusion with this particular study arises from that media coverage almost entirely ignores the well-known (among researchers) tobacco-testicular cancer correlation, which is eerily similar to the marijuana correlation in terms of risk rate.  Thus the media commentary have mistakenly focused heavily on whether this should be an obstacle to legalization, when the tobacco correlation and the legality of tobacco show that to be a debate that's essentially been decided already.

The study -- and two previous studies before it that showed a similar testicular cancer and marijuana correlation -- is important, though as it should help medical professionals, patients, and recreational users make informed decisions when choosing to use.  The message seems clear -- know there's risks of lighting up your favorite smoke, whether it's legal or illegal.

(Of course past studies have also suggested that cell phones are correlated to fast-growing testicular cancers.)

Sources: Cancer, NBC News

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RE: Causality
By JasonMick on 9/11/2012 3:43:02 PM , Rating: 5
While this is worth investigating further, without a causative link it's mostly meaningless, IMO. I remember from my economics classes how easy it was to find correlation which could be explained by a number of external factors. Of course, I haven't read the study.

Even if there was a link, it could be secondary.

For instance, it could even be the snacks that the pot smokers were eating that elevated that risk. ;)

Maybe it was all that yellow 3 in their mountain dew and red 40 in the Doritos that tipped them over the threshold into cancer land. Imagine if it was actually the munchies that gave people cancer!

RE: Causality
By Freakie on 9/11/2012 4:21:48 PM , Rating: 5
Or, you know, the fact that the vast majority of the scientific community has already figured out that pot is bad for you... It could just be that they are right, and that it truly is bad for you -_-

While proponents of pot will pick out any study they can find to show how it's *possible* that pot is healthy, all it takes is access to an academic research database to find an overwhelming amount of research showing how pot most definitely is bad for you both medically and socioeconomically.

But hey, everyone is blinded about something, and something can blind anyone. For many people, they are just ignorant about the majority of research out there and are therefor "blinded" and think that pot is at least not un-healthy, and probably healthy (which, unfortunately, is an incorrect opinion).

RE: Causality
By tayb on 9/11/2012 4:49:07 PM , Rating: 2
While proponents of pot will pick out any study they can find to show how it's *possible* that pot is healthy, all it takes is access to an academic research database to find an overwhelming amount of research showing how pot most definitely is bad for you both medically and socioeconomically.

I don't think most proponents of pot care if it is truly healthy for you or not. Alcohol and tobacco are horrible for you but that doesn't stop me from getting hammered tonight and smoking a carton of cigarettes.

Hell, pancakes and waffles are bad for you in excess.

RE: Causality
By Omega215D on 9/11/2012 6:07:28 PM , Rating: 2
In moderation there may be benefits.

RE: Causality
By Alexvrb on 9/11/2012 11:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, moderate quantities of pancakes and waffles with a moderate amount of maple syrup are indeed quite beneficial. I have noted on every occasion a marked reduction in hunger levels, and this may be linked to several other health benefits.

Clearly further study is necessary!

RE: Causality
By FredEx on 9/12/2012 7:19:18 AM , Rating: 2
After having a stack of pancakes your driving ability is most likely not going to be impaired. That is part of the equation often left out by people seriously comparing pot to food or cigarettes. Pothead friends I had needed to really stay put after smoking some good stuff.

Then again, if a non smoking person huffed a pack of cigarettes in 10 minutes, I'd not want to be around when they tried to drive or if a diabetic ate a stack of carb filled pancakes topped with half a bottle of sugar laden syrup and their sugar level shot up to 600 and they were near slipping into a coma, I'd not want to be around them driving.

RE: Causality
By SPOOFE on 9/12/2012 2:19:30 PM , Rating: 2
That is part of the equation often left out by people seriously comparing pot to food or cigarettes.

"The impairment manifests itself mainly in the ability to maintain a steady lateral position on the road, but its magnitude is not exceptional in comparison with changes produced by many medicinal drugs and alcohol. Drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and will compensate, where they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort. As a consequence, THC's adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small."

RE: Causality
By Alexvrb on 9/12/2012 11:53:01 PM , Rating: 2
Right, of course! Eveyone knows I drive better when I've had a few drinks. Since pot has been proven to not affect drivers exceptionally when compared to alcohol and prescription narcotics... clearly this means I also drive better when I smoke a few leaves or eat a few pills!

As for slowing down, that's a bulletproof failsafe method if you're some kind of freak whose driving is somehow impaired while on drugs. I mean, a little traffic impeding and risk of getting plowed into or run over by a truck never hurt anyone, amirite?

RE: Causality
By euclidean on 9/11/2012 5:00:51 PM , Rating: 2
I would totally agree with you, however, if you look at all of the research that is available, there are a ton of things that we should stop doing as it increases risk of cancer, death, harm, etc. etc. etc.

So the question is, if everyone read all of the available research, and did everything possible not to do anything against it, what would be left in life?

RE: Causality
By Warren21 on 9/13/2012 12:26:51 AM , Rating: 2
This kind of "YOLO" approach is a weak argument. It doesn't debunk that not smoking pot is beneficial to your health.

RE: Causality
By SPOOFE on 9/11/2012 5:01:55 PM , Rating: 2
all it takes is access to an academic research database to find an overwhelming amount of research showing how pot most definitely is bad for you both medically and socioeconomically.

Such access will reveal a number of studies in which the conclusions were forced; for example, a study on the effects of marijuana on driving failing to differentiate between drivers that were both drunk and high, and those that were merely high.

It seems that the only conclusive evidence about marijuana suggests that if you're already schizo, pot makes it worse.

RE: Causality
By Jeffk464 on 9/11/2012 11:53:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, anything that causes you to be fat and lazy isn't going to improve your health.

RE: Causality
By mackx on 9/12/2012 11:02:48 AM , Rating: 2
how about we accept it's bad for you. so what? we're not allowed to have stuff that's bad for us? no more junk food, no snacking between meals. people in the future will be telling their kids to eat their greens or the government will force feed them.

besides, who the hell smokes 40 joints a day? most people i know are either college students or are in work and both have 1 a day after work/class to destress. college ones of course get stoned on the nights too though :)

cigarettes give you cancer and we've known about that for decades. we're still able to decide for ourselves whether to smoke or not. give me the same right re pot

RE: Causality
By UsernameX on 9/12/2012 8:56:17 PM , Rating: 2
You don't mention how a person receives the chemical (THC). I bet most of the research is based upon people smoking pot and not ingesting it via food.

RE: Causality
By Jeffk464 on 9/11/2012 5:23:24 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, but the point of a study is to exclude all those external factors. Just depends on the quality of the study I guess. I know the new study on eggs looked really solid, so I cut way back. Probably the eggs or more dangerous than the pot by the way.

The scary study on pot was the one that linked it to reduced IQ in people that started using it in their teens. Something like 10 points.

RE: Causality
By espaghetti on 9/12/2012 1:20:23 AM , Rating: 2
Get off of my Doritos. It's the only addiction I'm allowed to have...
Besides tech :P

RE: Causality
By Boingo Twang on 9/12/2012 11:23:33 AM , Rating: 2
Indeed and the secondary link could be from a drastic increase in Cheetos, cookies or pizza consumption due to the cannabis use.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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