Smoking Marijuana Tied to Testicular Cancer
Could Pot Smoking Be Behind Rising Rates of Testicular Cancer?
Put It in Perspective continued...
That’s because the odds that a man will get testicular cancer are pretty slim to start with. About 1 in 400 white men are diagnosed by the time they are 35, according to the National Cancer Institute. So even if you double that risk to 1 in 200, any one man’s chances are still pretty low.
The study also doesn’t prove that marijuana causes cancer.
In fact, the relationship the researchers found wasn’t easy to explain. Men with lighter habits or who had given up pot smoking had a higher risk of testicular cancer than those who were current smokers or who reported heavier use.
Researchers don’t think that means smoking more pot is actually safer.
Other studies, which were larger, found that cancer risk increased with the size of a man’s pot smoking habit. The new study may simply be too small to show the same relationship.
Doctors aren’t sure why marijuana may increase the risk for certain kinds of testicular cancer. The active ingredient in the drug, THC, is known to disrupt hormone signals in the body. That may put cells in the testes on a path to cancer. More research is needed before researchers can say for sure.
The bottom line, says Stephen M. Schwartz, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is that marijuana may not be as harmless a drug as some people think.
“The overall story is that there’s an increased risk in marijuana users,” says Schwartz, who was not involved in the research. “It’s particular to the kinds of testicular tumors that are the most aggressive and therefore the most likely to put a man’s life at risk.” What’s more, he says, the finding “is pretty consistent amongst these three studies, which is something we should be paying attention to.”