While marijuana has been touted by many for its beneficial medical effects, there are some health conditions where cannabis might not be so good for you. New research from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine showed that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- the cannabis compound that makes users "high" -- causes accelerated growth of neck and head cancer cells in patients with human papillomavirus (HPV).
Researchers outlined how the presence of THC in the blood activates the p38 MAPK pathway, which is responsible for triggering cell death (apoptosis). When turned on, this pathway prevents cells from dying, which in turn, lets cancer cells grow without restraint.
HPV-related neck and head cancers are among the fastest-growing cancer types in America. Squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer found in the mucous membranes of the throat, nose, and mouth, is the sixth most common type of cancer in the world, with as much as 30% of all cases being HPV-related. What's more, this percentage is on the rise, and cannabis use is suspected to the cause.
Past links between cannabis and cancer
There have been other studies that linked cannabis use with cancer. A recently released meta-study showed that marijuana smoke has similar carcinogenic properties to tobacco smoke and could increase the risk of testicular cancer. Other studies have shown that consistent exposure to marijuana can increase the chances of developing HPV-related throat cancer.
However, cannabidiol (CBD) derivative products, such as GW Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:GWPH) child epilepsy drug Epidiolex, haven't been attributed to cancer growth. In general, CBD has been shown to help cancer patients manage their symptoms, rather than potentially exacerbate it.