According to the latest study led by Dr. Stephen Schwartz of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle smoking cannabis once a week or regularly since adolescence would double the risk of testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is growing steadily and is more common in men aged 15 to 35 years.
Cannabis and testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is responsible for only 1 to 2% of male cancers but is more common in men between the ages of 15 and 35. The number of cases is constantly increasing, as is the use of cannabis. An American study has recently shown a possible link between these two phenomena.
Testicular cancer on the rise
Since the 1950s, testicular cancer has been increasing in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
There are two types of germ cell tumors found in testicular cancer: seminomatous and non-seminomatous, which account for 60% and 40% of cases respectively. The latter is the most aggressive because they develop very rapidly and affect men between 20 and 35 years of age.
The risk factors for this disease are family history, the absence of one or both testicles in the bursa (cryptorchidism) and the abnormal development of testicles. This cancer is thought to occur partly before birth when certain germ cells (such as those responsible for sperm production in adulthood) do not develop properly and become vulnerable to malignancy. Later, during adolescence and adulthood, exposure to certain pollutants and hormones may also play a role.
Heavy Cannabis smokers are twice as likely to develop cancer
Several studies have attempted to link testicular cancer to exposure to different contaminants: phthalates, estrogen-like molecules used in the paint industry, pesticides, detergents, and plastics. However, despite disturbing animal studies, no connection has yet been established in humans.
However, one of the pollutants ignored so far is cannabis, the use of which has already been shown to increase in proportion to the number of cases of this male cancer. In addition, researchers have shown that testicles are among the only organs that contain specific receptors for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. Finally, the male reproductive system produces a cannabis-like compound with anti-cancer properties. It was therefore justified to look more thoroughly into the link between cannabis and testicular cancer.
To go further, Dr. Schwartz’s team asked 369 men with testicular cancer and 979 healthy men about their cannabis use. Given the influence of other parameters (alcohol, smoking, other known risk factors for testicular cancer, etc.), the analysis of the answers showed that cannabis plays a very important role in the development of seminomatous tumors. Joint smokers would have a 70% higher risk of testicular cancer than non-smokers. This risk has almost doubled for those who smoke weekly and/or start at puberty!
Don’t let your fertility go up in smoke!
The researchers point out, however, that these results are only a new area of interest at the moment. Further studies will have to confirm this link with certainty and provide insight into the mechanisms by which marijuana can promote this disease. It will also be important to understand why cannabis is associated with only one type of testicular cancer.
After already being proven to hurt fertility in men cannabis could eventually be blamed for causing testicular cancer. Dr. Schwartz, the lead author of the study, recalls that little is known about the long-term effects of cannabis, especially among heavy smokers.
“In the absence of more certain information, a decision to smoke marijuana recreationally means that one is taking a chance on one’s future health,” said Dr. Schwartz.
Given the link his study suggests, he invites young people not to risk their future health by not abusing cannabis.