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Marijuana Smoking May Cause Head and Neck Cancer

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The study also showed that smoking cigarettes increased a person's risk of head and neck cancer. Additionally, alcohol was found to be a risk factor, but it was not as strong as either the genetic risk or cigarette smoking.

However, since the study involved a relatively small number of people, the researchers may not have had enough information on alcohol. David Arnold, MD, from the University of Miami's Sylvester School of Medicine, tells WebMD that he and his colleagues have found a significant risk of cancer development if alcohol is also used with marijuana smoking. "Nobody knows why that is. People talk about the alcohol making the cells more [receptive] to the [cancer-causing agent in marijuana] so that it can actually get into the genetic level," he explains. Arnold is a professor of otolaryngology, in the division of head and neck surgery at the University of Miami, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

All in all, Zhang, Arnold, and Reggio agree that this is sobering news for people who smoked pot in the past and those who are smoking it now. They should be forthcoming with their doctors about their recreational drug use. "If they have ever used marijuana, they should see their dentists twice a year to be checked for precancerous lesions," Zhang says. "The message is: Anything you smoke is bad."

Vital Information:

  • A new study has linked past marijuana smoking with an increased risk of cancers of the head and neck.
  • More tar is found in marijuana than in cigarettes, so marijuana smokers have more exposure to cancer-causing agents.
  • For those who have ever smoked marijuana, a dental visit twice a year can catch precancerous lesions.
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