Study confirms connection between marijuana and testicular cancer
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
A study conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) has confirmed a suspected link between marijuana use and testicular cancer. The research is based on comparing data gathered from 163 males who were diagnosed with testicular cancer when they were between the ages of 18 and 36, and matched 292 healthy males of the same age and race as a control.
According to the information compiled, those who smoked marijuana once or more per week doubled their likelihood of developing non-seminoma tumours in the testes—a type of tumour that spreads more rapidly than others.
“We do not know what marijuana triggers in the testis that may lead to carcinogenesis, although we speculate that it may be acting through the endocannabinoid system, the cellular network that responds to the active ingredient in marijuana, since this system has been shown to be important in the formation of sperm,” said study co-author Victoria Cortessis, Master of Science in Public Health, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
It can often be treated, though removing the tumour usually involves losing a testicle. Despite this, those who have smoked pot at some point shouldn’t panic—while testicular cancer is the most common form cancer in men aged between 15 and 45, it is not a common disease. The odds are approximately one in 270 of getting testicular cancer, and one in 5,000 of actually dying from it.
The research has also found that cocaine may have an active benefit of preventing testicular cancer. Cocaine can cut one’s chances in half of falling victim to the disease, though it is not suggested that it be used in this manner.
In research done on animals, cocaine has had, “really devastating effects on the testicles,” said Cortessis. “They get smaller and smaller. I don’t think cocaine is protecting the cells from cancer. I think it’s more likely that it’s killing the cells (sperm-producing germ cells) and therefore they aren’t getting cancer.” Cocaine shrinks the size of one’s veins, and, in doing so, would prevent the blood flow necessary for cell production.
However, Cortessis would also comment, “If this is correct, then ‘prevention’ would come at a high price. Although germ cells cannot develop cancer if they are first destroyed, fertility would also be impaired.”