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Marijuana Users at Increased Risk of Testicular Cancer: Study

Update Date: Sep 10, 2012 12:18 PM EDT

According to a new study by researchers from the University of Southern California, recreational marijuana could increase the risk of sub-types of testicular cancer in men.

The study suggests that those using the herb for recreational purposes, and also those using marijuana and its derivatives for therapeutic purposes should consider the long-term effects.

For the study, which aimed at studying the role of marijuana in testicular cancer, 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 data of 163 men diagnosed with the disease and their self-reported history of recreational marijuana usage. The data was compared with that of 292 healthy men of the same age and race/ethnicity, the news release said.

During the investigation, it was found that men who had used marijuana had double the chances of contracting subtypes of testicular cancer called non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. These tumors are generally more common among younger men and the effects of it are worse than the seminoma subtype.

The study's findings confirm a link between marijuana use and testicular cancer.

"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," said Cortessis.

It was also found by the researchers that men with a history of cocaine usage were less likely to be at a risk of subtypes of testicular cancer.

This suggests that men with testicular cancer simply are not willing to admit using recreational drugs.

Although the influence of cocaine on testicular cancer risk is unknown, the authors suspect that the drug may kill sperm-producing germ cells since it has this effect on experimental animals, Medical Xpress reported.

"If this is correct, then 'prevention' would come at a high price," Cortessis said.

"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 study was published online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

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