Cannabis & lung cancer

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Diseased Strain

Well-Known Member
Jan 29, 2005
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Johns Hopkins Study Finds No Link Between Marijuana Use and Head, Neck, or Lung Cancer. There Was Also No Link Between This Study and Media Coverage.

Imagine the publicity that would have ensued from a report by the leading government sponsored researcher in the field, if he had reported that the data demonstrated that cannabis caused lung cancer. That has been a major part of the prohibitionist party line for years, so the Drug Czar would have called a press conference and media outlets around the world would have led with the story.

Indeed, previous reports that cannabis might causelung cancer have had major media coverage, especially in the UK.

Instead the researcher reported just the opposite, and indicated that the data also indicated that smoking cannabis may even reduce the risk of lung cancer.

And the media reaction??

Nada. Zilch. Zero. It wasn’t because they were not told. In NORML’s July 7th Weekly Press Release, NORML informed thousands of media outlets.

As usual, the inestimable Fred Gardner scooped the world with his report from this year's meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, and Gardner’s article was also posted on, a popular left of center website, but I have been unable to find a single instance of it being reported by a major news organization.

Inasmuch as stories about any possible cause or cure for cancer are usually very popular, this omission is… well, typical of news coverage on cannabis, but not cancer.

Marijuana smoking -"even heavy longterm use"- does not cause cancer of the lung, upper airwaves, or esophagus, Donald Tashkin reported at this year's meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society.

Coming from Tashkin, this conclusion had extra significance for the assembled drug-company and university-based scientists (most of whom get funding from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse).

Over the years, Tashkin's lab at UCLA has produced irrefutable evidence of the damage that marijuana smoke wreaks on bronchial tissue. With NIDA's support, Tashkin and colleagues have identified the potent carcinogens in marijuana smoke, biopsied and made photomicrographs of pre-malignant cells, and studied the molecular changes occurring within them. It is Tashkin's research that the Drug Czar's office cites in ads linking marijuana to lung cancer.
(MarijuanaNews note: Tashkin is THE accepted expert in the field. In 1998, the New Scientist magazine wrote, "The person to ask is Donald Tashkin, a lung expert at the University of California at Los Angeles
Tashkin himself has long believed in a causal relationship, despite a study in which Stephen Sidney examined the files of 64,000 Kaiser patients and found that marijuana users didn't develop lung cancer at a higher rate or die earlier than non-users.

Of five smaller studies on the question, only two -involving a total of about 300 patients- concluded that marijuana smoking causes lung cancer. Tashkin decided to settle the question by conducting a large, prospectively designed, population-based, case-controlled study. "Our major hypothesis," he told the ICRS, "was that heavy, longterm use of marijuana will increase the risk of lung and upper-airwaves cancers."

The Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance program provided Tashkin's team with the names of 1,209 L.A. residents aged 59 or younger with cancer (611 lung, 403 oral/pharyngeal, 90 laryngeal, 108 esophageal). Interviewers collected extensive lifetime histories of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and other drug use, and data on diet, occupational exposures, family history of cancer, and various "socio-demographic factors."

Exposure to marijuana was measured in joint years (joints per day x 365). Controls were found based on age, gender and neighborhood. Among them, 46% had never used marijuana, 31% had used less than one joint year, 12% had used 10-30 j-yrs, 2% had used 30-60 j-yrs, and 3% had used for more than 60 j-yrs. Tashkin controlled for tobacco use and calculated the relative risk of marijuana use resulting in lung and upper airwaves cancers.

All the odds ratios turned out to be less than one (one being equal to the control group's chances)! Compared with subjects who had used less than one joint year, the estimated odds ratios for lung cancer were .78; for 1-10 j-yrs, .74; for 10-30 j-yrs, .85 for 30-60 j-yrs; and 0.81 for more than 60 j-yrs. The estimated odds ratios for oral/pharyngeal cancers were 0.92 for 1-10 j-yrs; 0.89 for 10-30 j-yrs; 0.81 for 30-60 j-yrs; and 1.0 for more than 60 j-yrs. "Similar, though less precise results were obtained for the other cancer sites," Tashkin reported. "We found absolutely no suggestion of a dose response."

The data on tobacco use, as expected, revealed "a very potent effect and a clear dose-response relationship -a 21-fold greater risk of developing lung cancer if you smoke more than two packs a day."

Similarly high odds obtained for oral/pharyngeal cancer, laryngeal cancer and esophageal cancer. "So, in summary" Tashkin concluded, "we failed to observe a positive association of marijuana use and other potential confounders."

There was time for only one question, said the moderator, and San Francisco oncologist Donald Abrams, M.D., was already at the microphone: "You don't see any positive correlation, but in at least one category [marijuana-only smokers and lung cancer], it almost looked like there was a negative correlation, i.e., a protective effect. Could you comment on that?"

"Yes," said Tashkin. "The odds ratios are less than one almost consistently, and in one category that relationship was significant, but I think that it would be difficult to extract from these data the conclusion that marijuana is protective against lung cancer. But that is not an unreasonable hypothesis."…

(A more detailed report on the ICRS meeting will appear in the upcoming issue of O'Shaughnessy's, a journal put out by California's small but growing group of pro-cannabis doctors. To get on the mailing list, send a contribution of any amount to the CCRMG (California Cannabis Research Medical Group) at p.o. box 9143, Berkeley, CA 94709. It's a 501c3 non-profit and your correspondent's main source of income.)

The selective media deafness on cannabis and cancer was demonstrated again this month. The August 4th NORML press release also reported a similar study from France: Marijuana And Cancer Risk Not Strong, Study Says

Then the August 11th NORML press release reported: THC Selectively Inhibits Tumor Cell Growth Better Than Synthetic Alternative, Study Says

August 11, 2005 - San Francisco, CA, USA

San Francisco, CA: The administration of the cannabinoid THC selectively inhibits the proliferation of malignant cancer cells more effectively than does the use of a synthetic cannabinoid agent, according to clinical trial data published in the August issue of the Journal of Neurooncology.

Researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute reported that the administration of THC on human glioblastoma multiforme (brain tumor) cell lines decreased the proliferation of malignant cells and induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) more rapidly than did the administration of the cannabis receptor agonist WIN-55,212-2. Researchers also noted that THC selectively targeted malignant cells while ignoring healthy ones in a more profound manner than did the synthetic agonist.

Previous trials have found that cannabinoids selectively induce tumor regression in rodents and in human cells, including the inhibition of lung carcinoma, glioma (brain tumors), lymphoma/leukemia, skin carcinoma, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer

Of course, there have been other stories about cancer that did not get a lot of coverage.

Full text of abstract

Alcohol & Alcoholism Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 155-165, 2004

By G. Pöschl and H. K. Seitz*

Department of Medicine, Salem Medical Centre, Heidelberg and Laboratory of Alcohol Research, Liver Disease and Nutrition, Heidelberg, Germany

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