Marijuana May Cause Cancer

There has been a long held belief that marijuana, while known to cause certain conditions, did not cause cancer. A ruling from California and a latest study are challenging that belief.

The state of California recently added marijuana smoke to the list of chemicals that regulators claim causes cancer. A spokesman for the state said that says the state agency found marijuana (cannabis) smoke contains 33 of the same harmful chemicals as tobacco smoke. Where many studies have shown that tobacco smoke damages DNA in a way that boosts risk for lung and other cancers, until now, it’s been unclear whether cannabis smoke could do the same.

Quick physiology lesson. Cancer is any malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. See when a healthy cell DNA divides everything is cool, when a cell DNA divides abnormally, there is now a problem.

A recent study by Scientists at the University of Leicester contends that marijuana (cannabis) smoke alters DNA, the genetic material located in cells of the human body. Some forms of DNA damage can lead to cancer.

Using newer chemistry techniques, researchers showed that a dangerous chemical, acetaldehyde, is now found in marijuana smoke. It was previously thought that it was only found in tobacco smoke. In a lab setting this chemical caused DNA damage.

The discovery suggests that marijuana smoke may be as harmful, or perhaps even more toxic, than tobacco smoke. In fact, study researchers say that smoking three to four marijuana cigarettes a day causes as much airway damage as smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day.

The state of Massachusetts recently “decriminalized” marijuana. If you get caught with less than an ounce, you get a fine, much like a building code infraction. Where I work with an eclectic group of people, including a lot of 18-24 year olds, I asked them if this decriminalization would make it more likely they would smoke pot.

For the most part people said they wouldn’t change their habits, based whether or not it was decriminalized. These same people did believe, however, that smoking marijuana was not that bad for you.

If you smoke pot or have a friend, child, etc., make sure they take a look at this article. They may be doing more harm to themselves than they think.

The findings of the study I mention above appear in this month’s issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology.

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