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Does marijuana increase testicular cancer risk?

Posting in Cancer

Researchers from the University of Southern California suggest that smoking marijuana may increase the risk of developing testicular cancer.

Published in the journal Cancer, the scientist's report suggests that there is a link between rates of testicular cancer and recreational marijuana use.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in young men between the ages of 15 and 45. However, the condition is becoming more common, and the aim of the study was to see if "unrecognized environmental causes" are contributing to the situation.

Victoria Cortessis, MSPH, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles and her colleagues analyzed the self-reported history of recreational drug use in 163 young men who were diagnosed with testicular cancer. As a comparative control group, the researchers compared these histories with 292 healthy young men of the same age group.

The team found that the testicular cancer sufferers with a history of smoking the plant were twice as likely to have contracted more serious sub-types of testicular cancer -- known as non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. These usually occur in younger men and are more severe than the common seminoma type. Cortessis said:

"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."

The team says these findings mean that men should be more wary of using marijuana for fun, and health professionals may want to keep this in mind when prescribing the drug's therapeutic use in male patients.

Image credit: Flickr

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— By on September 10, 2012, 12:48 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure