Marijuana May Lower Risk of Bladder Cancer in Men

As the United States debates marijuana policy, questions are constantly being raised about marijuana’s unknown health effects. Many are afraid that legalizing marijuana would lead to a Trojan horse of unintended health effects, while others believe it could be a panacea for good health.

In keeping with the assumptions of the latter, a study released in the Journal of Urology has found that marijuana use may lead to decreased risks of bladder cancer in men.

Led by Dr. Anil A. Thomas, researchers examined medical data from the California Men’s Health Study cohort. Evaluating 84,170 participants between the ages of 45 and 69, researchers looked at the demographic and lifestyle factors, such as tobacco and marijuana use, and then linked the information with electronic clinical records.

Approximately 41 percent of participants reported using marijuana, 57 percent reported tobacco use, 27 percent reported both, and 29 percent used neither. Out of the 84,170 participants, 279 eventually developed bladder cancer. Of those that contracted bladder cancer, 89 participants had used marijuana, compared to the 190 participants that did not.

After adjusting for various confounding factors, researchers found that marijuana use was associated with a 45 percent decreased risk of bladder cancer. Those that had used both marijuana and tobacco were found to have a 28 percent increased risk and those that had exclusively used tobacco have a 52 percent increased risk.

In 2013, Thomas addressed colleagues at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting about the lack of research into marijuana and bladder cancer. Per The Motley Fool:

“We know that tobacco smoking is the best established risk factor for bladder cancer,” Thomas said. “But to date, there are no epidemiologic studies accurately characterizing the association between cannabis use and bladder cancer.”

Although these findings will be very exciting to some, many scientists will be quick to point out that this is just one study and that more research will need to be conducted. However, in order for more research to be done, scientists will have to overcome a difficult barrier: The DEA.

Because marijuana is considered a schedule 1 drug, it is considered highly dangerous with no accepted medical uses. In order for the FDA to sign off on a study of marijuana, the DEA would also have to approve it. However, because marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, the DEA will not approve any study.

Stymied by this catch-22, marijuana research remains extremely limited. But as marijuana laws in the United States continue to be relaxed and repealed, many advocates believe that FDA approved medical studies of marijuana will become more frequent than in days past.

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