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A link has been found between recreational marijuana use and an increased risk to young men of developing certain types of testicular cancer that tend to carry a worse prognosis, according to a recent study.
Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in men ages 15-45. This trend is becoming more common and researchers have hypothesized that this may be due to environmental causes.
To see if drug use might be one of these causes, researchers at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California looked at the self-reported history of recreational marijuana use in 163 young men diagnosed with testicular cancer and compared it to that of 292 healthy men in the same age and ethnicity brackets.
It was found that men with a history of marijuana use are twice as likely to have subtypes of testicular cancer called non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. It seems that these tumors tend to occur in young men and carry a worse prognosis than the seminoma subtype.
"We do not know what marijuana triggers in the testis that may lead to carcinogenesis, although we speculate that it may be acting through the endocannabinoid system - the cellular network that responds to the active ingredient in marijuana - since this system has been shown to be important in the formation of sperm," Researcher Victoria Cortessis, MSPH, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles said in a statement.
The findings from this study, which was published in the journal "Cancer," suggest that the potential cancer-causing effects of marijuana on testicular cells should be considered both when making personal decisions regarding recreational drug use as well as when marijuana and its derivatives are used for therapeutic purposes in young men.
Interestingly, researchers in this study also found that men with a history of recreational cocaine use have a reduced risk of both subsets of testicular cancer. It is unknown exactly how cocaine may influence the risk of testicular cancer, but it's been hypothesized that the drug may kill sperm-producing germ cells, as it has this effect on lab animals.