Cannabis smokers 'more likely to develop testicular cancer although risk can be reduced by using COCAINE'Researchers find link between recreational cannabis use and an increased risk of developing subtypes of testicular cancer that tend to carry a worse prognosis
06:54 GMT, 10 September 2012
Men who smoke cannabis are at greater risk of testicular cancer, a new study suggests, but men who use cocaine may be at a lower risk from the disease.
Researchers have found a link between recreational cannabis use and an increased risk of developing subtypes of testicular cancer that tend to carry a somewhat worse prognosis.
The findings suggest that the potential cancer-causing effects of marijuana on testicular cells should be considered not only in personal decisions regarding recreational drug use, but also when marijuana and its derivatives are used for therapeutic purposes in young male patients.
'Carcinogenic': New research indicates use of cannabis could increase the risk of contracting certain difficult-to-treat forms of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in young men ages 15 to 45. The malignancy is becoming more common, and researchers suspect this is due to increasing exposure to unrecognised environmental causes.
To see if recreational drug use might play a role, Doctor Victoria Cortessis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), and her colleagues looked at the self-reported history of recreational drug use in 163 young men diagnosed with testicular cancer and compared it with that of 292 healthy men of the same age and ethnicity.
The investigators found that men with a history of using marijuana were twice as likely to have subtypes of testicular cancer called non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumours.
These tumours usually occur in younger men and carry a somewhat worse prognosis than the seminoma subtype.
The study's findings confirm those from two previous reports on a potential link between cannabis use and testicular cancer.
Dr 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.'
Protection, but at a high price: Cocaine seems
to reduce the risk of cancer, but it is thought to do so by
destroying the sperm-creating cells. (Posed by model)
The researchers also discovered that men with a history of using cocaine had a reduced risk of both subtypes of testicular cancer.
This finding suggests that men with testicular cancer are not simply more willing to report a history of using recreational drugs.
While it is unknown how cocaine may influence testicular cancer risk, the authors suspect that the drug may kill sperm-producing germ cells since it has this effect on experimental animals.
Dr Cortessis added: 'If this is correct, then “prevention” would come at a high price. Although germ cells can not develop cancer if they are first destroyed, fertility would also be impaired.
'Since this is the first study in which an association between cocaine use and lower testis cancer risk is noted, additional epidemiological studies are needed to validate the results.'
The findings were published online in the journal Cancer.