Long-term Cannabis Use Prevents Cancer
By Lanny Swerdlow, RN
In the August issue of Cancer Prevention Research, seven medical researchers reported that “10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell cancer.”
The italics are mine because I wanted to emphasize that long-term cannabis use was not just associated with a reduction in the incidence of this type of cancer, but was associated with a significant reduction—people who have used cannabis for a long time have a significantly lower risk of developing this form of cancer than people who do not use cannabis.
The seven researchers were not engaging in hyperbole when they used the word significantly, as the study found a 50-percent-or-greater reduction of developing this fairly common form of cancer. In other words, it really means something for your health.
Head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) is associated with the use of alcohol and tobacco, but not cannabis. Of interest is the study also found that for people who used alcohol and tobacco, those who also used cannabis had a lower incidence of HNSCC then those who did not. This shows that the cannabinoids found in cannabis are such powerful anti-cancer agents that they can even reduce the formation and spread of cancers in the presence of cancer-causing agents such as alcohol and tobacco.
It is important to note that the study indicated the long-term use of cannabis was necessary to achieve this cancer-reducing effect—you can’t just start ingesting cannabis when you get HNSCC and expect to obtain any significant results. Although short-term use after discovery of HNSCC might be beneficial, the prevention of this form of cancer is best obtained when cannabis is used over the long term.
Did you read about this in any local newspaper? Did you see it or hear about it through the broadcast media? The total blackout on this astounding research is mindboggling. You can bet your last dime that if the results of the study showed that consuming cannabis could cause cancer, even by just a small amount, it would have been on the front page of every newspaper and the lead-in story on the broadcast media.
Although the HNSCC study is the first that has scientifically investigated the potential anti-cancer properties of cannabis in humans, it is not the first research documenting the cancer-inhibiting actions of the cannabinoids found abundantly in cannabis.
In an examination of recently published, peer-reviewed, evidence-based research, medical researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health reported in January 2008 that the administration of cannabinoids halts the spread of a wide range of cancers. Among them: HYPERLINK “http://www.future-drugs.com/doi/abs/10.1586/1473722.214.171.124” t “_blank”brain cancer, HYPERLINK “http://www.future-drugs.com/doi/abs/10.1586/14737126.96.36.199” t “_blank”prostate cancer, HYPERLINK “http://mct.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/6/11/2921” t “_blank”breast cancer, HYPERLINK “http://www.nature.com/onc/journal/v27/n3/abs/1210641a.html” t “_blank”lung cancer, HYPERLINK “http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/66/13/6748” t “_blank”skin cancer, HYPERLINK “http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/66/13/6748” t “_blank”pancreatic cancer and HYPERLINK “http://molpharm.aspetjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/70/5/1612” t “_blank”lymphoma. The report noted that cannabis offers significant advantages over standard chemotherapy treatments because the cannabinoids in cannabis are both non-toxic and can uniquely target malignant cells while ignoring healthy ones.
If just half the research showing cannabis can prevent cancer demonstrated that green onions could prevent cancer, there would be legions of doctors and dieticians along with the National Institute of Health, the Surgeon General and the Federation of Green Onion Growers advising consumption of green onions each day. But because it’s marijuana—well, then it’s OK to just let people get cancer and die.
Since research clearly demonstrates that cannabis can prevent the development of cancer, then the appropriate ingestion of cannabis is desirable in the same way that healthcare professionals advise the appropriate ingestion of calcium supplements to prevent or at least delay the onset of osteoporosis. How much and how often cannabis should be ingested is not known because our government has never allowed such research to be done. The study did note that “moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC,” however the authors did not reveal just what constitutes “moderate” use.
At the present time, individuals desiring to use cannabis as a cancer preventative will have to determine what constitutes a therapeutic dose on their own. As the safest therapeutically active substance known, it is perfectly safe for individuals to make that determination as no one has ever died as the result of the ingestion of cannabis or suffer any other significant debilitating ailments.
For individuals with a family history of cancer—especially head and neck cancer—and for those who use alcohol and tobacco, the regular appropriate ingestion of cannabis as a cancer preventative would seem to be a prudent course of action.
Lanny Swerdlow, R.N., is director of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, an Inland Empire-based medical marijuana patient support group and law reform organization. He works at the THCF Medical Clinic, a cannabis therapeutic health facility in Riverside. He can be reached at (760) 799-2055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.