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Does Marijuana Cause Cancer? Research Says Marijuana Fights Cancer

Lisa Garber
September 8th, 2012
Updated 11/01/2012 at 10:27 pm
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marijuanaleaf3 235x147 Does Marijuana Cause Cancer? Research Says Marijuana Fights Cancer

Does marijuana cause cancer? The censorship-happy government’s war on marijuana may be sorely misplaced, especially when considering all the other issues in need of focus. Dr. Sean McAllister of the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has spent years researching cannabidiol, a cannabinoid found in cannabis, the plant that flowers marijuana. “Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” he says.

You might remember Cash Hyde, the 3-year-old boy from Montana diagnosed with brain cancer but who beat it with his father Mike’s help and marijuana oil.  Well, Hyde’s case isn’t the only one revealing the positive relationship between marijuana and cancer.

Does Marijuana Cause Cancer? THC as Therapy

In 1998, Cristina Sanchez of Complutense University in Madrid reported in a European biochemistry journal that THC—the famed psychoactive component in marijuana—“induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells,” which are a type of brain cancer.

Lead author of another study and Harvard University researcher Anju Preet says, “THC can have a potential therapeutic role.” His findings, presented in a 2007 American Association for Cancer Research in Los Angeles, showed that THC has a direct antitumoral effect.

THC’s First Human Trial

The first clinical trial studying THC’s antitumoral effect on humans was conducted by Manuel Guzman and his team of Spanish scientists. Guzman administered THC to nine patients who had not responded to traditional brain cancer therapies for the study. As published in a 2006 issue of the British Journal of Pharmacology, tumor cell proliferation reduced in response to THC administration through a catheter – showing the medical benefits of marijuana.

THC and the Lungs

Another Harvard study reports that THC slows lung cancer progress. Moreover, unlike chemotherapy which damages all cells—healthy or cancerous—THC specifically destroyed tumoral cells without harming healthy ones.

In another study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, spanning from 1985 to 2006, over 5,000 men and women smoked about one joint daily for seven years. Co-author Stefan Kertesz found that subjects, rather than having damaged lungs, showed increases in lung air flow rates. Surprising findings indeed.

Cannabidiol and Breast Cancer

With backing from the National Institute of Health, Dr. Sean McAllister conducted a study and found that cannabidiol inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation, metastasis, and tumor growth.

McAllister researched cancer’s relationship to the ID-1 gene—a protein active during embryonic development but, in healthy subjects, turns and stays off.  In the case of breast cancer patients, the gene turns back on, which causes malignant cells to metastasize.  In the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, McAllister wrote that cannabidiol switches off the gene’s expression.

McAllister found that cannabidiol can even work alongside standard chemotherapy treatments by performing synergistically with pharmaceuticals.  This means that maximum, toxic doses don’t have to be administered.

Despite accusations that marijuana smoking can compromise the immune system, mountains of research indicate that the plant has more to offer than a high.  More studies are undoubtedly in the works.

In this research, Manuel Guzman located in Madrid, Spain discovered that cannabinoids substantially inhibit the growth of tumors in a variety of lab animals. In the study he also found that not one of these tested animals endured any kind of side effects seen in many similar chemotherapy treatments.

If all of the research doesn’t appeal to you, then maybe the 2,500 total studied patients throughout these 37 controlled studies may. None of the patients reported any kind of adverse side effects from the use of THC and based medication – further adding to the benefits of medical marijuana and strengthening the positive connection between marijuana and cancer.

So, does marijuana cause cancer, or does it fight cancer?

Additional Sources:


The Daily Beast

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  • Marshal Legazpi

    This is also dependent on the strain of cannabis used. Some are more wakeful and stimulating, others are calming and relaxing.

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  • John

    Philosophy for life, everything in moderation.

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    • cpmt

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  • Anthony

    I'm no fan of MJ as far as recreational use, but it does help with Chemo and Radiation. I will say it is far less harmful that alcohol. Ingesting it, such as the hospital gave me pills of it, no high associated with that. I also bought a Vaporizer, couldn't do the smoke. It was a blessing. I've recommended it to 4 friends with cancer, 2 done it and 2 didn't, one of those is dead now. Pro or Con of arguing, unless you've been there, you know nothing. Those against it, as was said many years ago by an Indian Chief, "Its easy to be brave from a distance". I no longer need it but God forbid, if that day returns, I will.

  • medea

    Yes, tobacco bad, marijuana good. I'm sure that holding smoke in one's lungs for prolonged periods of time is a good thing (eyes roll heavenward)

    • justin

      why do you have to smoke it? and if you do the research you will find that it causes virtually no harm to any system in your body lungs included. a parapalegic that was paralized from the chest down took cannabis oil for 60 days and could not only feel the wind blowing across his stumps (he lost his legs to the explosion that paralized him, land mine) but could feel people touching them…his body is literally regenerating…watch the films Vitamin Cannabis…Run from the Cure…and What if Cannabis Cured Cancer…it really is the miracle plant of humanity not to mention the uses of paper wood food oil plastic gasoline etc….why do you think it is illegal? its a replacement for virtually every commodity of our modern world..the powers that be cannot allow a plant that grows everywhere multiple crops a year to be uses by the masses…their control of industry would fall by the wayside as well as most of the problems we have in our modern world…these are facts

      • cpmt

        fibers… clothing, cords, etc etc… many uses.

    • cpmt

      No, medicinal marihuana / cannabis is used as oil, extract, or plant and NOT SMOKING IT.

      • cpmt

        Medicinal MJ doesn 't have the high effects of the smoked recreational MJ . You must know there are big differences between both. IN Canada (and in US some places) are using hemp oil… with very good results in certain cancers, MS, parkinsons etc..

  • medea

    The biggest problem with marijuana is it makes people think they are creative geniuses. I guess sitting around, eating and acting stupid is now the modern definition of "creative genius." More ridiculous navel gazing for those whose only goal is to feed a bodily craving while wasting time playing video games and humping a stranger. Yes, it's all for a higher purpose – no pun intended.

  • PaulH

    The government here in the UK have not really done much study into the effects of using cannabis. Yet they still state it causes some mental illness. But my question is this, can they say undoubtedly that any "test" subject(being no official tests have been carried out on it)will not of become mentally ill without cannabis use. People are now and have always been treating many illnesses with cannabis and it's derivatives, like hemp oil etc. All I can say is if the government want to ban anything, then the people concerned could at least have some actual experience of the drugs concerned, not necessarily first hand.

    • cpmt

      the excess of anything is dangerous… of course cannabis may be dangerous if you over do it like with wine and other things… mediations etc… if they study people who are in marihuana all day long for weeks and months it will have that effect and you don't need to be a scientist to know it. In Canada, they have studies done. and if you have cancer and that plant (that God give us, like other plants… that help and are medicinal) helps you, why can't we use it? and more reason if it can cure an illness. herbal medic. and spices VS. chemo. …. well even if you die, the chemo destroys every body part…. and horrible pain. and don't cure you…. vs…. herbs that do not destroy your body and may or may not cure you??? which one will you choose?

  • PaulH

    Just too add, crimes committed due to a legal high, namely drink are kind of accepted and dealt with, but crimes committed when using cannabis are virtually none existent due to the fact that when your high on cannabis, you can't be arsed to do much other than eat. And as we all no, drinking is a poison that destroys your liver, brain cells and kidneys and more. But cannabis does very little harm, if any if taken without tobacco. And it's not the use of cannabis that leads to harder drugs, it's the individuals personality and peer pressures that do that.

  • Anonymous

    The people who pay for the "research" can prove any theory based on the spin the study has. There may very well be aspects of THC that are benefical regarding cancer and opthmological issues, however to claim that it causes no damage is just ignorant and untrue. I can bet that every person you ask who has done the "disgusting" drug of heroin started out with alcohol and marijuana. Its damages far outweigh the benefits for general societal use, I know a lot of people both personally and professionally that would support that. If you would take a moment and reflect on government ignoring big pharmacy, tobacco and alcohol industries you would see the catastrophic impact that would have, no regulation = greed and limited testing = ultimate physical damage and death.

    • Teresa

      Obviously the stigmas attached to marijuana, NOT the plant itself are the cause of the "damage" you speak of, if you have ever actually researched the history of the plant. I myself recreationally and medicinally smoke cannabis and never had the desire to move onto heavier drugs (save for plant based psychedelics that also have medicinal and spiritual benefits, if you'd do the research), many people I know are the same. Not one death has been caused by ingesting the plant, yet all the "damage" you speak of has been caused by it's illegality. You spew the same tactless and baseless propaganda that everyone does that wants to keep hemp and cannabis suppressed. I wouldn't be surprised if you were paid to make your comment.

      • Andrew

        teresa… i'm 28 and i've been smoking pot pretty much daily for half my life and i'm very concerned of the fact that smoke, is smoke. it's simply unhealthy to inhale smoke. to believe unlike tobacco smoke, pot contains some magical properties that are going to protect me from suffering the ills of lung damage and perhaps even mouth, throat or lung cancer is just foolish. it's definitely healthier to just, not smoke. hell, eat it. but smoking it… i would beware.

        • Laotzu

          Hi Andrew, pot smoking has been shown to reduce incidence of lung cancer compared to people who don't smoke anything. Google "donald tashkin cannabis lung cancer" and you will find many pages relating to this study, and a video of one of his presentations on the study.

          If you want to cure cancer, eat it. I have heard juicing fresh cannabis yields a cure, as does making an essential oil extract from dried flowers (buds).

    • cpmt

      YES, and you can blame anything to be the beginner cause of the more serious stuff… blame the TV for the shttings, or violence or… and the sugar for every case of heavy people or… No you can't generalize and , about things causing damage… so is wine if you drink too much or turmeric or cinnamon or…. too much vitamin x or too little etc etc.. The truth is I kow several people who got "cure"? of cancer they had.. possible was the hemp oil or not… but when they tell you you are going to die with i 3 months.. and you recuperate and live years after… well …The problem is that you really CAN'T believe all the gobernement tell you or some of the studies they do … for 20years they told everyone that cigarets were not harmful they were ok, the were no addictive etc etc.. 20 LARGE YEARS… when the facts were the contrary and the opposit. they also said saccharine was cancerous in the late 60"s and early 70"s then silently it dessapear for a few years… now we see it everywhere and no one is saying anything about it.. and people keep dying of gallbladder & pancreas cancer and NO ONE IS SYING ANYTHING.. and continue sying it is ok…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting. The war on drugs is a real joke.

  • Steve W.

    It's amazing to see how much damage the war on drugs has done with just one natural drug alone. Don't get me wrong, a drug like heroin has disgusting results in society but a plant like marijuana with all it's benefits should outweigh the anti cannabis lobby completely. It's high time big pharma and the tobacco and alcahol industry was ignored by government.