What's Worse than Suspension from the Swimming Team?
With all the hubbub over Michael Phelps being photographed with a bong, you'd think the worst thing about smoking pot is a loss of reputation. But the truth, according to scientists, is that marijuana might leave you with more than a sullied record. The journal Cancer recently published the findings of a study looking at the correlation between marijuana use and occurrence of testicular cancer. The research was conducted by a team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Despite the numerous studies on testicular cancer, this is the first to consider the relevance of cannabis use. Here are the details:
- 1,348 Seattle area men between the ages of 18 and 44 participated in the study.
- 369 of the men had been diagnosed with testicular cancer; 979 were cancer free.
- Each man provided information about his own drug history.
- 72% of those with testicular cancer reported using marijuana.
- 68% of those without testicular cancer reported using marijuana.
Men who had been smoking pot for at least 10 years, since before the age of 18, or at least once a week were determined to be at higher risk of developing testicular cancer. In addition, these cancers often took the form of nonseminoma, which accounts for 40% of all testicular cancer cases, is fast-progressing, and is more aggressive. The results are admittedly inconclusive. The difference between occurrence rates is relatively small, and subject provided drug history is always questionable. But this does not change the fact that inspired the study. About a decade ago, the study's lead author, Janet Daling, attended a lecture noting the presence of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana's active ingredient) sensitive receptors in the testicles. The researchers of the current study hypothesized that too much THC might inhibit the receptors' tumor-suppression communication with the rest of the body. Testicular cancer strikes about 8,000 American men annually, and has a five-year survival rate of 96% if caught in an early stage, according to the American Cancer Society. A few factors that increase a man's risk of contracting the disease are a family history, undescended testicles, being between 20 and 40, and abnormal testicular development. Experts do not really know what causes testicular cancer. This latest study only supports the generally accepted ideas about healthy lifestyle choices reducing the risk of any illness. Along with proper diet and exercise, the best defense is to see your doctor for regular testicular exams, as well as performing your own exams at home.