Epidemiological data presented last May at
International Conference of the American Thoracic Society
(ATS) concluding that smoking marijuana, even long-term, is
not positively associated with increased incidence of lung-cancer,
is just the latest in a long line of government claims regarding
the alleged dangers of pot to go – pardon the pun –
up in smoke.
Investigators from the David Geffen School
of Medicine at the University of California assessed the possible
association between cannabis use and the risk of lung cancer
in middle-aged adults (ages 18–59) living in Los Angeles.
Researchers conducted interviews with 611 subjects with lung
cancer and 1,040 controls matched for age, gender, and neighborhood.
Data was collected on lifetime marijuana use, as well as subjects'
use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, diet, occupation,
and family history of cancer. Investigators used a logistical
regression model to estimate the effect of cannabis smoking
on lung cancer risk, adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity,
education, cumulative tobacco smoking, and alcohol use.
"We did not observe a positive association
of marijuana use – even heavy long-term use –
with lung cancer, controlling for tobacco smoking and other
potential cofounders," investigators concluded. Moreover,
their data further revealed that one subset of moderate lifetime
users actually had an inverse association between cannabis
use and lung cancer. Much less surprising, the NIH-funded
study – the largest of its type ever conducted –
did find a 20-fold increased risk in heavy tobacco smokers.
Officials from the White House’s Drug
Czar’s office had "no comment" on the UCLA
While the investigators’ failure to
demonstrate a positive association between cannabis use and
cancer may seem surprising to some, the bottom line is that
scientists overseas have been studying pot’s potential
anti-cancer properties for nearly a decade. Most recently,
investigators at Italy's Instuto di Chemica Biomolecolare
the May issue of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental
Therapeutics that compounds in marijuana inhibit cancer cell
growth in animals and in culture on a wide range of tumor
cell lines, including human breast carcinoma cells, human
prostate carcinoma cells, and human colectoral carcinoma cells.
Previous studies by European researchers
have shown that cannabis’ constituents can reduce the
size and halt the spread of glioma (brain tumor) cells in
animals and humans
in a dose dependent manner. Separate preclinical studies have
also shown marijuana to inhibit cancer cell growth and selectively
trigger malignant cell death in skin cancer cells, leukemic
cells, and lung cancer cells, among other cancerous cell lines.
But none of these findings should come as
a surprise to the US government, which ironically, sponsored
the first experiment ever documenting pot's anti-cancer effects
in 1974 at the Medical College of Virginia. The results
of that study, reported in an August 18, 1974, Washington
Post newspaper feature, were that marijuana's primary psychoactive
component "THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast
cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and
prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."
Shockingly, federal officials have steadfastly
refused to fund any follow up research on the subject in the
following decades, and today continue to oppose any use of
cannabis – even for medical purposes in states that
have authorized its use. What’s the Fed’s rational
for maintaining such a foolish and misguided policy? Most
likely, they have "no comment."
About the Author: Paul Armentano is the senior policy
The NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. Additional
articles by Paul Armentano are available at LewRockwell.com,
where this article was originally posted.