Marijuana use may increase risk of testicular cancer

A new study from the University of Southern California (USC) has found a link between recreational marijuana use and an increased risk of developing subtypes of testicular cancer that tend to carry a somewhat worse prognosis. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, 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 in young male patients.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in young men ages 15 to 45 years. The malignancy is becoming more common, and researchers suspect this is due to increasing exposure to unrecognized environmental causes.

To see if recreational drug use might play a role, Victoria Cortessis, MSPH, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, and her colleagues looked at the self-reported history of recreational drug use in 163 young men diagnosed with testicular cancer and compared it with that of 292 healthy men of the same age and race/ethnicity.

The investigators found that men with a history of using marijuana were twice as likely to have subtypes of testicular cancer called non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. These tumors usually occur in younger men and carry a somewhat worse prognosis than the seminoma subtype. The study’s findings confirm those from two previous reports in CANCER on a potential link between marijuana use and testicular cancer.

“We do not know what marijuana triggers in the testis that may lead to carcinogenesis, although we speculate that it may be acting through the endocannabinoid system—the cellular network that responds to the active ingredient in marijuana—since this system has been shown to be important in the formation of sperm,” said Cortessis.

The researchers also discovered that men with a history of using cocaine had a reduced risk of both subtypes of testicular cancer. This finding suggests that men with testicular cancer are not simply more willing to report a history of using recreational drugs. While it is unknown how cocaine may influence testicular cancer risk, the authors suspect that the drug may kill sperm-producing germ cells since it has this effect on experimental animals.

“If this is correct, then ‘prevention’ would come at a high price,” Cortessis said. “Although germ cells can not develop cancer if they are first destroyed, fertility would also be impaired. Since this is the first study in which an association between cocaine use and lower testis cancer risk is noted, additional epidemiological studies are needed to validate the results.”


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5 thoughts on “Marijuana use may increase risk of testicular cancer”

  1. I’ve read that testicular cancer is one of the most common among men,one in two hundred,something like that. This research could have asked these men what make of car they drive and then published a headline saying” Driving a Ford MAY increase your chance of testicular cancer”.

  2. sounds like reefer madness first they claimed it made you stupid then it was crazy and now its cancer of your junk next it will be the reason why our politicians have ruined america .what a bunch of crap.

  3. The results and methodology of any research must be looked at closely, and this one is no exception.

    This study is full of caveats, and states it only “appears” that a link “may” exist. The study was also only based on a very small sampling of 163 men with testicular cancer (and 290 healthy men of the same age) who filled out a questionnaire. Again, it is important to note that the study did not show a direct link, it only suggested a possible one. The study also failed to factor into the questionnaire other issues such as exercise, diet, prescription drug use, tobacco, and alcohol.

    Health-related costs per user are eight times higher for those who drink alcohol when compared to those who use marijuana, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers, according to a 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal.
    It states: “In terms of [health-related] costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.”

    http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/cannabis/bck/7

    Apart from the fact that legal drugs kill far more people than all the illegal drugs combined, debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Are drugs like Heroin, Meth or Alcohol dangerous? It simply doesn’t matter, because if we prohibit them then we sure as hell know that it makes a bad situation far worse. If someone wants to attempt to enhance or destroy their lives with particular medicines or poisons, that should be their business, not anybody else’s. Their lives aren’t ours to direct. And anyway, who wants to give criminals, terrorists and corrupt law enforcement agents a huge un-taxed, endless revenue stream?

    • Excellent points, Malcolm. Very well said. I hate seeing this “news” article all across the web. More propaganda scare tactics from those with deep pockets in the pharmaceuticals world.

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