Pot Linked to Testicular Cancer by Jennifer Harper
The Washington Times
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Reprinted with permission

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Research released Monday revealed a deadly and previously unreported threat to men who use marijuana.


According to a study funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, frequent or long-term marijuana use may “significantly increase” a man’s risk of developing the most aggressive type of testicular cancer – up to a 70 percent increase.  The risk was particularly elevated among men who used marijuana at least weekly or who had used it since adolescence.


“Our study is not the first to suggest that some aspect of a man’s lifestyle or environment is a risk factor for testicular cancer, but it is the first that has looked at marijuana use,” said Stephen M. Schwartz, lead author and an epidemiologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a private facility in Seattle that conducted the research.


The results suggested that marijuana use was linked to nonseminoma, a fast-growing testicular malignancy that tends to strike men under 35. 


Testicular cancer has increased by 3 percent to 6 percent per year in the U.S. in the past five decades – along with marijuana use, a factor that prompted the researchers to investigate a potential link between the two.


Researchers also were intrigued by findings from the University of Washington and other institutions that found that only the brain, testes, heart, uterus, spleen and immune-system cells are receptive to tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana.


The male reproductive system also naturally produces a chemical thought to have a protective effect against cancer, and Janet Daling, an epidemiologist who also worked on the project.  She speculates that marijuana use may disrupt this beneficial effect, underscoring the possibility of a link between marijuana and testicular cancer.


“It has been suggested that puberty is a ‘window of opportunity’ during which lifestyle or environmental factors also can increase the risk of testicular cancer,” Ms. Daling said.


Chronic marijuana use already has been linked to impotency, itself a link to an increased risk of testicular cancer.


The research was based on a study of 1,348 men under the age of 44 which assessed their health, marijuana use and family history.


“Marijuana use emerged as a significant, independent risk factor for testicular cancer,” concluded the study, which was published Monday in the medical journal Cancer.


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