Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Marijuana can prevent cancer, not cause it

Lanny Swerdlow
Special to The Desert Sun

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

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
likely to develop lung cancer than people who do not smoke anything at
Since marijuana smoke contains the same cancer-causing agents as tobacco
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
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

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. Lanny Swerdlow, a resident of Palm Springs, a registered nurse and is
director of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, an Inland Empire-based
medical marijuana patient support group and law reform organization.
may be reached at lanny@marijuananews.org.

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