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Smoking Pot Could Raise Risk of Bladder Cancer at a Younger Age

February 3rd 2006

Smoking Pot Could Raise Risk of Bladder Cancer at a Younger Age

Dr. Martha Terris

New research shows that smoking marijuana may raise the risk for bladder cancer occurring at an early age.  Bladder cancer is more common among “people age 60 and older”, says Dr. Martha Terris, urologist at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) and Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta. 

Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor for cancer, but smoking marijuana may be as bad as or worse than cigarette smoking as a risk factor for bladder cancer, according to the report.  Since it was known that cigarettes increased the risk, the researchers decided to investigate the risk for marijuana.

The VA hospitals affiliated with Stanford University Medical Center and MCG decided to investigate risk factors associated with exposure to tobacco, radiation, Agent Orange, smoked or processed meats and synthetic dyes used in the textile industry. 

 

The researchers looked at these exposures and found that the cancer patients and controls had similar rates of exposure to all the risk factors except marijuana. “Marijuana-smoking might be an even more potent stimulant of malignant transformation in transitional epithelium than tobacco smoking,” according to the study.  The researchers also said that the combination of cigarettes and marijuana may have an “unfortunate synergy”. 

In a study of 52 younger patients age 44 to 60 with transitional cell bladder cancer at VA hospitals in Augusta and Palo Alto, California, showed that 88.5 percent had a history of smoking marijuana.  They also found that 31 percent of the cancer patients still smoked marijuana, compared to 20 percent of those in an age-matched control group.

Dr. Terris said “The literature has suggested that marijuana-smoking increases the risk of head and neck cancer and lung malignancies, and that these tumors tend to develop earlier and behave more aggressively in marijuana smokers.”  They also noticed several younger patients had developed transitional cell carcinoma had a history of smoking marijuana.

 

The researcher recommend that if doctors find blood in the urine, they may want to inquire about marijuana use in their follow-up and more strongly consider bladder cancer as a cause.  Also, bladder cancer patients considering marijuana to treat chemotherapy side effects should consider an alterative.  Terris says “If they are getting chemotherapy for their bladder cancer and smoking marijuana to increase their appetite, they may be undoing the benefits of chemotherapy.”

Since the risks of bladder cancer diminish, but never go away, Terris says “The safest move is to never start smoking anything.”  The research is published in the January issue of Urology.

 
 
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By Dan Wilson
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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:50 PM