Say what? Marijuana can double risk of cancer; cocaine can reduce it

File this under the “You Just Never Know” file.

Or “The Studies They’ll Come Up With.”

Or “Fill In Your Own Odd Study Joke Here.”

A USC study found that if men smoked marijuana as teens, their risk of getting testicular cancer doubles. OK.

But cocaine use can reduce that risk by half. Umm …

“But the findings aren’t conclusive and a marijuana researcher questioned their value,” Randy Dotinga of HealthDay found in his reporting.

Here’s more of the story:

“Even if there is a doubled risk for pot smokers, as the study seems to indicate, the overall chances of a young man developing testicular cancer would still be very low, experts said.

“However, ‘young men are entitled to this information so that they can make informed decisions,’ said study co-author Victoria Cortessis, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. She said that although the study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect link between marijuana use and testicular cancer, other research has produced similar results.

“Testicular cancer is extremely rare, and largely a disease of young men. It is diagnosed in about 8,600 men a year, according to an American Cancer Society estimate, and kills only about 360 since treatment is usually successful. A man’s chances of developing the disease over a lifetime are about one in 270.

“The new study examined 163 patients who were diagnosed with the most common type of testicular cancer. They were diagnosed between 1986 and 1991 in Los Angeles, and researchers asked about their drug use during in-person interviews.

“The researchers compared them to 292 healthy men of similar races, ages and ethnicities.

“The study found that of the men with testicular cancer who answered questions about marijuana use, 81 percent had tried the drug. Of the healthy men, 76 percent had tried marijuana.”

The story goes on to mention the study’s findings when it came to cocaine use among young men.

It turns out they had “a lower risk of getting the more severe kind of testicular cancer. Forty-three percent of those with the condition had used cocaine, compared to 44 percent of the healthy men. When researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn’t be influenced by various factors, however, they found that cocaine could have a protective effect.

“The study suggested several ways that the drug may reduce the risk of testicular cancer, such as killing cells in the testicles. Cortessis cautioned in a statement, however, that cocaine could make men infertile.

“As for marijuana, Cortessis said it’s plausible that a component of pot known as THC causes the severe type of testicular cancer in some men.

“Marijuana researcher Dr. Donald Abrams questioned the findings. The rates of testicular cancer in California didn’t increase in the 1960s and 1970s when pot use went up, said Abrams, chief of hematology-oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.

“‘If there were a true cause-and-effect relationship, one would see blips in testicular cancer rates associated with greater use of cannabis,’ he said.

“The study appears online Sept. 10 in the journal Cancer.”

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About James Meier

I'm James Meier, a 15-year journalism veteran, who's spent the past nearly seven years at The Desert Sun and MyDesert.com in Palm Springs, Calif. I grew up in Orange County, spent many years reporting and editing there, and am enjoying working in the desert. I'm now the Senior Editor of Business, Data and Education. Reach me at James.Meier@thedesertsun.com or on Twitter @tdsJamesMeier