Could smoking pot raise testicular cancer risk?
Do men who frequently smoke pot have a higher risk of testicular cancer than those who do not? It’s possible, according to a new study. However, the researchers say the link is currently a “hypothesis” that needs further testing.
Testicular cancer is relatively rare - a man’s lifetime chance of developing the disease is about 1 in 300 (and dying of it is about 1 in 5,000). Frequent or long-term marijuana smokers could have about double the risk of nonusers, according to the report in the February 9 issue of the journal Cancer.
In the study, a team led by Dr. Janet R. Daling of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, interviewed 369 men between the ages of 18 and 44 from the Seattle-Puget Sound area whose testicular cancer had been diagnosed. They compared those men with 979 men who lived in the same area, but did not have cancer.
Overall, 26 percent of the testicular cancer patients were pot smokers (15 percent who used daily or weekly) at the time of diagnosis, compared with 20 percent of men without cancer (10 percent who used daily or weekly). Health.com: Is there a link between drugs, alcohol, and ADHD?
Marijuana users had 2.3 times the risk of a type of testicular cancer known as a nonseminoma as those who were not. Testicular cancer is divided into two types, pure seminomas (60 percent of cases) and nonseminomas (40 percent of cases.) The link was much weaker in men with seminomas.
These types of studies have one important caveat—cancer patients may be more likely to remember - or may be more honest about - past drug use than men in the general population.
Because marijuana use was more closely associated with one type of tumor, rather than testicular cancer in general, it reduces the chances that the study participants were less than honest, Daling said. “That certainly makes us feel better that the associations are true associations,” she said.
Still, the results are considered preliminary and need to be confirmed with more research. “There have been studies done on testicular cancer, but ours is the first to look at marijuana,” said Daling. Health.com: Dogs sniff out clues in the fight against cancer
Scientists believe that most cases of testicular cancer actually get their start in early fetal life. Having an undescended testicle - a relatively common birth defect - a key risk factor for the disease.
By Kate Stinchfield
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