Dude, it's your junk! Pot linked to testicular cancer

By catseye · Sep 10, 2012 · Updated Sep 18, 2012 · ·
  1. catseye
    Some blunt advice for the young, male fans of marijuana: You may want to kill that joint and clutch your crotch -- self-check style, that is.

    Scientists at the University of Southern California say they've detected a link between recreational marijuana use and a greater chance among males in their early teens through their mid-30s of contracting a particularly dangerous form of testicular cancer -- non-seminoma tumors, according to a small study published today online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

    "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," said Victoria Cortessis, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles.

    Further, the fellas' weed intake "might be something they would want to mention to their usual health-care provider."

    Cortessis and her colleagues analyzed the self-reported recreational drug use of 163 young men who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Among those patients who acknowledged indulging in pot, just over half (51 percent) told medical researchers they puffed or ingested cannabis more than once per week.

    The team then compared the illegal drug histories of those 163 afflicted men with the lifestyle habits of 292 healthy men of the same age and ethnicity. Inside the data, they saw that men who had used marijuana recreationally were twice as likely to develop mixed-germ-cell tumors, including the deadlier non-seminona tumors. (The 292 unaffected men were "sampled" from the same neighborhoods in which the ill men had lived at the time of their diagnoses, Cortessis said.)

    "These tumors usually occur in younger men and carry a somewhat worse prognosis" than other types of testicular cancer, the study reported. Moreover, the USC findings confirmed two previous reports in CANCER of an apparent link between marijuana use and cancer of the testicles, the researchers noted.
    Still, the rate of such cancers occurring in men is relatively low: There is a lifetime risk of slightly more than 1 percent, Cortessis said.

    "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," Cortessis said. "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" (such as chemo), she added.

    So, why would weed wield such woes for some cojones in some dudes?

    The USC scientists are unsure exactly what internal glitches marijuana may trigger that could cause cancer. But they speculate that the process may begin in the body's endocannabinoid system, which is the cellular network that responds to the active ingredient in marijuana. That same system has been shown to be vital in the formation of sperm. The study was was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

    The researchers also invested a few words of their report to speak directly to the young men living in the 17 states where medicinal marijuana is legal, stating: "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."

    At medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state and California, that stance not surprisingly drew swift retorts.

    At the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the proprietors read the USC study on Friday afternoon, then promptly emailed to NBC News a news link to a recent study in Madrid in which cannabis was found to be a cancer fighter.

    "The LA study stands in contrast to several recent studies which have found that cannabis actually has cancer fighting properties," said Steve DeAngelo, co-founder of Harborside. "The LA study is reporting a correlation, as opposed to a causal connection between cannabis use and the cancers. It is a well-established scientific principle that correlation does not equal causality.

    "I would also note that the sample size is quite small," DeAngelo added, "and the size of the control group is double that of the cannabis users."

    Two states to the north, at Seattle's Northwest Patient Resource Center, chief executive John Davis argued that any person taking therapeutic drugs should know that all of those otherwise beneficial substances carry some health hazards.

    "And with a lot of them," Davis said, "the risk is death.

    "If you're using (marijuana) medicinally, you should understand the risks and the benefits, just like any other therapy," Davis added. "Marijuana, in general, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances on Earth. Can it have some side effects? Yeah. But compared to pharmaceutical drugs, those side effects are much less."

    Bill Briggs
    NBC News
    September 10, 2012

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  1. Phenoxide
    Very interesting to see the contrasting ways in which the two medical marijuana businesses commented on the study.

    The Seattle based company took it in stride and presented a perfectly rational stance; that all medications have side effects and risks, that these should be made clear to prospective patients, and a decision should be reached as to whether the benefits of treatment outweigh those risks. They treat cannabis as any other medical treatment would be approached.

    The Oakland company on the other hand seem guilty of trying to undermine the research in order to protect their own interests. They immediately divert attention to other unrelated research into different cancers in which cannabis may serve a protective role. They do this to imply that cannabis is inherently safe, but the way they've done so is a logical fallacy; cannabis use may be protective in some instances but destructive in others. They then criticize the sample size, a standard media tactic for undermining scientific findings to the layman, despite the fact that the researchers report a statistically robust correlation. It's clear the proprietors of this company treat cannabis as something that can do no wrong and are as unaccepting and inflexible with the facts as any tobacco or alcohol manufacturer.

    It's a neat little microcosm for the industry as a whole. Personally I'd like to see more of the Seattle approach and less of the Oakland. That way maybe medical marijuana could be taken seriously instead of being misappropriated to try and force through total legalization.
  2. enquirewithin
    This is hardly overwhelming evidence. Why the link?

    This is speculation based on a small sample, which could turn out to mean something or perhaps not.
  3. kumar420
    so basically their evidence is 'because more than half of the test subjects smoked pot, and they all have testicular cancer, there is a link'
    that is a purely correlationary link between the two. also no mention of any other factors that may have influenced the growth of the cancer (cigarette smoking, family history of the disease- assuming this is applicable in this scenario, lifestyle and so on)
    seems to me this is just another attempt to sensationalise the 'detrimental effects of marijuana'
    the seattle dispensary did an especially good job of covering their bases.
  4. storkfmny
    I'll bet every one of those with the cancer has also eaten ice cream on a somewhat regular basis but I don't see them blaming dairy products. The majority of these studies are bunk and a waste of money.
    Water will and has killed people that drink too much of it....so what!
  5. psyche
    You only quoted one paragraph, but the idea of the study was explained in these two paragraphs:

    So there is a link because there is a significant correlation between the two.

    Obviously this is not overwhelming evidence, but it is suggestive that cannabis may increase the risk of testicular cancer, so it's worth further research.

    The risk of getting testicular cancer is small in the first place, so the risk is well acceptable. But bear in mind that included in a typically long list of side effects of any given pharmaceutical medication, there are many more trivial and passing side effects included, so why shouldn't cannabis be investigated in a comparable thoroughness?

    Lastly, what would you say if a study found a link between a pharmaceutical medication and cancer? Would you say that was expected, or would you question the link? Would you bring up confounding factors? Have you ever argued in favor of pharmaceutical medications, trivializing it's side effects or criticizing a study?
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