Scientists links marijuana use to DNA damage, cancer risk

European scientists revealed that marijuana smoke can damage the genetic material contained in human DNA in ways that potentially increases a person’s risk for developing certain types of cancer. According to the researchers, their new highly sensitive tests provided convincing evidence that clearly outlines the effect described above.
The current study is the first study to try to determine the effects of marijuana smoke on DNA. It takes off from previous studies which showed that tobacco smoke contains certain substances that damages DNA and increases risk for lung and several other types of cancer. Researchers of the current study noted that a certain substance known as acetaldehyde can be found both in tobacco and marijuana smoke. DNA damage caused by acetaldehyde is quiet difficult to observe and measure using conventional tests, which is why the researchers used a highly sensitive test known as modified mass spectrometry.
Using this test, the researchers were able to observe indications of DNA damage caused by marijuana smoke. Specifically, they found that smoking marijuana causes far greater DNA damages than tobacco cigarettes. “The smoking of 3-4 cannabis cigarettes a day is associated with the same degree of damage to bronchial mucus membranes as 20 or more tobacco cigarettes a day.”
According to the researchers, cannabis or marijuana smoke contains fewer compounds than tobacco smoke but is more carcinogenic because it is less combustible. “Because of its lower combustibility, it contains 50% more carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons including naphthalene, benzanthracene, and benzopyrene, than tobacco smoke,” the researchers explained.
“These results provide evidence for the DNA damaging potential of cannabis (marijuana) smoke, implying that the consumption of cannabis cigarettes may be detrimental to human health with the possibility to initiate cancer development. The data obtained from this study suggesting the DNA damaging potential of cannabis smoke highlight the need for stringent regulation of the consumption of cannabis cigarettes, thus limiting the development of adverse health effects such as cancer,” the researches explained of the significance of their study.
The team of researchers involved in the study includes Balvinder Kaur, Tina Juren, Rajinder Singh, Jatinderpal Sandhu, Dan Segerback, William P. Steward, and Peter B. Farmer of the Cancer Biomarkers and Prevention Group, Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
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