By Lanny Swerdlow
The Office of National Drug Control Policy has been spending millions of taxpayer dollars on advertisements and printed material declaring that marijuana causes cancer. The truth is just the opposite - marijuana can prevent cancer. Recent research has shown that the cannabinoids found in marijuana can not only halt the spread of cancer but can also kill cancer cells.
A study conducted in 2005 by Dr. Donald Tashkin at the UCLA School of Medicine demonstrated that people who smoke marijuana are at less risk of developing lung cancer than tobacco smokers. The study of 2,200 people in Los Angeles found that even heavy marijuana smokers were no more likely to develop lung, head or neck cancer than non-users. In comparison, tobacco users' risk of cancer increases the more they smoke.
Data in Dr. Tashkin's study suggest that people who smoke marijuana are less likely to develop lung cancer than people who do not smoke anything at all. Since marijuana smoke contains the same cancer-causing agents as tobacco and the only difference between the nonsmokers and the marijuana smokers was their use of cannabis, then it is not an unreasonable hypothesis that marijuana can prevent the development of cancer.
In 2003, Dr. Manual Guzman at the Complutense University in Madrid Spain published a research paper entitled Cannabinoids: Potential Anticancer Agents. Dr. Guzman's research on the brains of laboratory rats found that the cannabinoids in cannabis inhibit tumor growth and are selective antitumor compounds, as they can kill tumor cells without affecting noncancerous cells.
Investigators 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, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, and lymphoma. The report noted that cannabis offer 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.
Is the evidence incontrovertible that cannabis can inhibit the spread of cancer, kill cancer cells and prevent the development of cancer?
No it is not - but doctors are telling millions of people to spend billions of dollars and ingest all kinds of supplements on way less evidence than there is to support the anti-cancer properties of cannabis.
When taking any kind of medicine or supplement, a person needs to decide if the claimed benefits of a product outweigh the risks. Many times the answer is no.
Cannabis is not one of these products, as there has never been a single death attributed to cannabis or any other significant debilitating consequences.
Further, the vast majority of cannabis users report numerous beneficial effects.
If cannabis can prevent the development of cancer, then the appropriate ingestion of cannabis is desirable in the same way that the appropriate ingestion of calcium supplements can prevent or at least delay the onset of osteoporosis. Since for the vast majority of people, cannabis has no negative side effects and only beneficial effects, it would seem that the regular appropriate ingestion of cannabis as a cancer preventative agent would be a prudent course of action.