As someone who reads multiple articles about cannabis every day, I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to studies regarding the plant when the results are published. Invariably, the title of the article is a question – as I’ve done with this piece – and then the meat of the article is usually some paragraphs about inconclusive results followed by a call for more research in the area.
A good example of this is a recent review of 25 studies that looked at possible links between marijuana use and various forms of cancer. It’s pointed out that tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke contain some of the same carcinogens and that this may present health implications for marijuana smokers.
But what of the studies themselves? Well, it seems that “study results regarding the link between marijuana lung cancer risk were mixed — so much so that they were unable to pool the data.”
So what about other forms of cancer? There was “insufficient evidence to link this drug to a heightened risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, oral cancer, or laryngeal, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancers.”
Also, “insufficient evidence that marijuana use was associated with an increased risk of other forms of cancer, including prostate, cervical, penile, and colorectal cancers.”
And then, “the studies that they [researchers conducting the review] had access to had many limitations, including numerous methodological problems and an insufficient number of participants who reported high levels of marijuana use.”
This is all followed up by the inevitable call for more research, so that we have a “better understanding” of these issues.
So what did we learn? In reality, not much. The only cancer researchers seemed to take a more definitive stand on was testicular cancer, saying that “regular marijuana use was associated with development of testicular germ cell tumors.”
An association between marijuana use and testicular cancer is not a new hypothesis and was addressed by Paul Armentano at NORML earlier this year.
In any case, the wish for more research is one that is shared by anyone and everyone involved in the cannabis community or the cannabis “debate”. We need to know everything we possibly can about this plant and its abilities and applications.
In the meantime, it’s important to recognize and rebut stereotypes like “marijuana causes cancer”, a stereotype that everyone over a certain age was raised on and believed. Despite decades of claims that cannabis does cause cancer, there is still no definitive proof.