Smoking ganja linked to testicular cancer

Ganja, a recreational drug which has side effects, such as short-term memory loss and motivation restraint, has now been classified as a possible cancer-causing agent in a report released last Monday by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the United States.

While there are no recorded major harmful effects among women, a recent study conducted in Seattle, Washington, found that male marijuana users are at risk of developing a more aggressive form of testicular cancer called nonseminoma testicular cancer.

The study, which examined 369 men with testicular cancer and 979 men without the disease, revealed that current marijuana users were 70 per cent more likely to develop testicular cancer compared to non-users.

Highest risk

Men who reported smoking marijuana for at least 10 years used it more than once a week, or started using it before the age of 18, appeared to be at the highest risk. Researchers said they were unaware of what it was about marijuana that might increase the cancer risk. Further, they also found that chronic marijuana use can decrease sperm quality.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle were the first to investigate the link between testicular cancer and marijuana. The study, however, has been deemed inconclusive by Fred Hutchinson researcher, Stephen Schwartz, who stated that the study, by itself, is not definitive.

Refuse hospital treatment

“There’s a lot more research that would have to be done in order to be more confident that marijuana use really is important in a man’s risk of developing testicular cancer,” Schwartz said in a telephone interview to the news agency Reuters Group.

According to the Ministry of Health, from 2003-2006, the reported cases of testicular cancer among Jamaican men have been relatively low, with as few as three cases in 2004. The numbers were based on information retrieved from government hospitals and the University Hospital of the West Indies. However, the Ministry of Health provided the reported cases of testicular cancer and the numbers do not reflect unreported instances and persons who refuse hospital treatment.

The recent report may come as a downer to Jamaican and Seattle marijuana users alike. Ganja, though illegal in Jamaica, is easily accessible and affordable. It is a key sacrament in Rastafarianism.