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Smoking or eating marijuana is not a cure for cancer

There’s a modern myth that marijuana (cannabis sativa), in its natural form, is effective at both preventing and treating cancer. This myth has become ever more popular with the gradual approval of marijuana…

The myth that marijuana can prevent or treat cancer misses many important aspects of pharmacy that go beyond just the chemicals in the plant. Valentina solito/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

There’s a modern myth that marijuana (cannabis sativa), in its natural form, is effective at both preventing and treating cancer. This myth has become ever more popular with the gradual approval of marijuana for recreational use in many places, most notably in some American states.

This misplaced belief most likely stems from the numerous studies that have shown that select chemicals found in marijuana have some anticancer properties. But it misses many important aspects of pharmacy that go beyond just the chemicals in the plant.

Marijuana, whether smoked or ingested, is not effective because dose and method of delivery are just as relevant to anticancer activity as the drug itself. And the damage caused to the body from long-term marijuana use may negate any perceived health benefits.

Cannabinoids and cannabidiols

Marijuana is the dried and crumbled leaves of the cannabis plant. The leaves can be rolled into cigarette- or cigar-like devices or smoked in a pipe. Alternatively, it can be mixed into food and baked; popular food stuffs include brownies and biscuits or cookies.

The structures of the two chemicals found in marijuana which have potential as anticancer drugs. Created by author

Like tobacco leaves, marijuana contains many hundreds of different chemicals. Two chemicals from the cannabinoid family are of particular interest as anticancer drugs, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive effect, and the related compound cannabidiol.

In bench top, petri dish-like experiments, these chemicals have been shown to kill or slow the growth of different cancers, including in one study, colorectal tumours and leukaemia. Some studies have also shown effectiveness in animals models, but all these used the pure chemicals as injectable solutions.

Unfortunately, anticancer activity in the laboratory doesn’t always equal similar activity in humans. More than 80% of drugs fail human cancer clinical trials even though they have been found to be curative in animals.

In addition, if marijuana itself was able to cure cancer in humans then there should be a lower incidence of cancer in groups of long-terms users. Instead, it appears that marijuana use may increase your likelihood of cancer. While this hasn’t been firmly established yet, regular marijuana use definitely does not lower your risk of cancer.

Importance of the dosage form

Even if the cannabinoids are found to be anticancer active in humans, the means by which the drugs area administered is just as important as the compounds themselves.

Human lungs are not designed to absorb chemicals from the air. Blind Nomad/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Pharmacists call different formulations of drugs dosage forms. Examples of dosage forms include tablets and capsules, creams and lotions, and solutions for injection. Some drugs work equally well when administered in different dosage forms, but some drugs, especially cancer drugs, are only effective when injected directly into the blood stream.

Human lungs are not designed to absorb chemicals from the air and while 9-THC is sufficiently absorbed from smoke to give its psychotropic effects, the inhaled dose may not be high enough to be effective against cancer.

Alternatively, when ingested, the anticancer chemicals will be rapidly absorbed from the stomach but may be transported to other areas of the body (like the brain) rather than to the sites of cancer. The active chemicals may also be destroyed by the liver through metabolism before they attain a high enough dose in the blood stream.

More problematic is that how and where the marijuana is grown, and how it is prepared, can affect significantly the amount of active chemicals found the plant. Variability in the concentration of active chemical in many plant-based complementary medicines remains a huge issue in their application.

Dangers of long-term marijuana use

Just because a product is natural, or organic, does not mean it is completely safe. As described earlier, marijuana use may increase the chance of cancer, but it can also induce the same chronic effects that come from smoking any substance.

Just because a product is natural, or organic, does not mean it is completely safe. North Cascades National Park Ranger/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Long-term marijuana use has been shown to destroy cilia (the hairs in the respiratory tract) and lower the natural antimicrobial protection that we have in the lungs. Marijuana use can only damage health, not improve it.

In the future, the active chemicals from marijuana may enter mainstream medicine for the treatment of cancer. If so, they will be used in high-quality pharmaceutical preparations at the correct dose and in the most effective formulation.

So by all means use marijuana for recreational reasons (if that’s what you are into and it’s legal in your area) or for medically-prescribed pain relief, but don’t use it for the purpose of preventing or curing cancer.

Join the conversation

76 Comments sorted by

  1. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    Seriously, are there actually idiots out there who believe that???

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Crest

      Just like there are people out there that think it is more harmful than ciggerettes or alcohol, there are people out there that think it is a wonder cure for all types of illness.

      Astrophysicist Carl Sagan, the man involved in many many space missions including the voyager missions, was a regular marijuana user and it obviously didn't affect him to negatively as he was a very very smart man.

      There are also countless scientists, philosiphers that loved wine or ciggerettes, betrand russell said that his favourite thing in the world was the pipe

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    2. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Great point Michael about Carl Segan, didn't seem to hinder Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or many others either.

      "there are people out there that think it is a wonder cure for all types of illness"

      I may be one of them, but wouldn't go as far as saying "it is a wonder cure for all types of illness". Over the last 5 years I've been reading (and headline-skimming) the RSS feed:

      http://news.google.com/news?q=cannabis%7Cmarijuana+study&num=100&output=rss

      While initially sceptical…

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      I like the Sagan example the best because not only did he try it....he regularly used throughout his life and even wrote essays about it.

      I am with you that it can be useful for increasing appetitte, pain relief, nausia, etc which is primarily why many cancer patients use it, to relieve the symptoms not to cure the cancer.

      The author didn't touch on vaporisers either which is a bit of a let down.

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    4. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to John Crest

      Apparently the US government is not one of them http://uspatent6630507.com/ . Look a website dedicated to US government hypocrisy they patent the efficiency of "Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants" whilst publicly claiming marijuana as a dangerous drug with no medical value.
      Apparently the whole US government suffers from schizophrenia and needs to be on a marijuana prescription of the appropriate variety (correct balance of THC, CBD and trace elements), seemingly along with the author…

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  2. George Michaelson

    Person

    most of the negatives reduce to "smoking is bad"

    the 'could it be anti-cancer' is left as a weak maybe, coupled to 'dosage' and 'smoking is bad'

    I'm not particularly convinced by 'lungs are not designed to absorb medicine' argument. point A, Lungs aren't designed. Point B, the 'may' word crept in there again. If you want to hedge, thats ok. But its not a knock-out blow to say 'may not' about a belief as tenuous as this. It invites the "also may" retort.

    Lungs do a pretty good job of absorbing inhaled steroids. Clearly, water soluble dosages delivered via the lungs can work. (I believe they go beyond the lungs. my limited experience with nebulizers suggests they get into the bloodstream and then distribute)

    (I neither smoke, nor consume cannabis, nor do I believe its particularly anti-cancer.)

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    1. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to George Michaelson

      G'day George, inhalation increases the analgesic effects: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jznQfMj9RWM

      Not many are aware of these studies, and once you read through a few of them, you will get the idea that cannabis oil shouldn't be lightly dismissed as a potential cure for cancer[1-44].

      Before these though, there is one vital study to read: http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/356446

      In summary: "The article describes the case of a 14-year old female with a very aggressive, terminal…

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  3. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Brilliant article, thanks for posting. I love the stuff but as we move towards legalising for recretional use we do need more articles like this.

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  4. Danny Hoardern

    Analyst Programmer

    "There’s a modern myth that marijuana (cannabis sativa), in its natural form, is effective at both preventing and treating cancer. "

    G'day Nial, glad we cleared this up - the studies you referenced are based off cannabis oil extracts, which is currently the most promising cure for cancer we have to date (to my knowledge, please point me in the right direction if there is something better out there).

    "Instead, it appears that marijuana use may increase your likelihood of cancer"

    Apologies…

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      '' the studies you referenced are based off cannabis oil extracts, which is currently the most promising cure for cancer we have to date (to my knowledge, please point me in the right direction if there is something better out there).''

      Hmm - let's see.

      Vincristine is better for acute lymphocytic leukaemia than cannabis oil.
      Cladribine is better for hairy cell leukaemia than cannabis oil.
      Doxorubicin is better for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, acute leukemias, Kaposi sarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, Wilm tumor, and cancers of the breast, adrenal cortex, endometrium, lung, and ovary than cannabis oil.
      Cisplatin is better for testicular, bladder, and ovarian cancers that have metastasised (spread) than cannabis oil....

      (To name but a few).

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    2. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Thanks Sue, looking at the side-effects of these, and considering cancer is our #1 killer, I'm not convinced current cures are doing their job - if they were, cancer would not be the #1 killer - any comment?

      As a person that likes science, could you please direct me to papers that claim these are more effective than cannabis oil? I have provided studies for cannabis-oil in another comment. The side-effects of Vincristine, Doxorubicin, Cisplatin are far more dangerous than cannabis oil (disclaimer: read from wikipedia).

      It's great that we have these treatments, and I don't mean to detract from them - I'm simply elucidating potential new treatments that have scientific backing. Please keep in mind cannabis-oil is an emerging treatment, and is not common knowledge.

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    3. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      You keep using the word 'cure', but I think you're confused. None of the above listed are 'cures'. There are no 'cures' for cancer. All the above listed are treatments. And the first thing you should be asking when someone says "this is a cure for cancer" is "which cancer?"

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    4. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      G'day Martin

      Thanks for your comment. Admittedly I don't have much knowledge of current treatments but from studying cannabis over the last 5 years, the excitement around it being an effective 'treatment' is out there if you're prepared to do the research. Thanks to Sue to pointing out our current 'treatment'.

      "which cancer?" Please see my other comment, the references will point you in the right direction. Understanding the distribution and function of our very own endocannabinoid system…

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    5. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      What about the use of cannabis oil for epilepsy. The success in young children is becoming evident. As to cancer, smoking is carcinogenic, no matter what is smoked, isn't it? However if a cancer patient wished access to cannabis oil for treatment, can it do any harm if used with current medically favored treatments.?

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      ''Admittedly I don't have much knowledge of current treatments''

      That is clear.

      You will notice from other comments that there is no one disease called ''cancer'' - there are as many different diseases as there are cell types and organs. To propose a single treatment to cure ''cancer'' is a clue in itself - the more that is claimed about a potential new miracle treatment, the less likely it is to be true.

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    7. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      ''How about the studies I referenced?''

      Have you read them? Could you please summarise for us what they did and what they showed?

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    8. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Yes.

      Of course, in summary activation of the endocannabinoid system by exogenous cannabinoids targets cancer cells by causing cell apoptosis (cell death) while leaving normal healthy cells untouched - this is the big difference to current treatments.

      Now it's your turn, read this one study and tell us what you think: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901602/

      Summary if it is too long: "The article describes the case of a 14-year old female with a very aggressive, terminal form of leukemia. Cannabis extracts were administered orally, the leukemic blast cell count had fallen from a peak of 374,000 to 300 by day 39. By day 78, the cancer was almost completely gone." "Cannabis extracts were determined to be the sole cause for improvement."

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    9. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      No, Mr Hoarden - I asked you to outline what the studies did and what they found - not how you think the endocannabinoid system would target all cancer cells (even if this were conceivably true).

      You are making the assertion - don't ask me to do the research for you. Oh, and single case reports don't count.

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    10. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Most the studies I've referenced are carried out in petri dishes that find cannabinoids kill cancer cells but leave healthy cells. Other population-based studies show a slight decrease in the incidence of cancer in cannabis consumers - contrary to this article. How would you explain this finding?

      "single case reports don't count"
      Are you saying this case study means nothing? This is a fairly new treatment, but here you go: http://www.cannabisscience.com/index.php/news-media/news-releases/227-cannabis-science-reports-apparent-success-for-3rd-self-medicated-cancer-patient and http://www.cureyourowncancer.org/testimonials.html

      It's not yet established whether cannabis oil treats _all_cancer types, which is why the references are in sections. Besides, we should still focus on what's promising.

      Thanks for making me think about this important topic a little more, I will add more later.

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  5. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    I'm not opposed to a more liberal approach to cannabis decriminalisation that is more in line with drugs such as tobacco and alcohol and more in proportion to the actual harmfulness - however, there are plenty of people who seem to have bizarre beliefs, that we should dedicate the world's entire land to cannabis cultivation, that it will cure all disease, end world hunger (lol right), fix anthropogenic climate forcing, bring about world peace, and generally fix everything.

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  6. con vaitsas

    worker

    I realise this has nothing to do with cancer but Louis Armstrong smoked "weed" every day of his life from the 1920's onwards even on days when performing, he thought it was good for you

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  7. Justin Kander

    logged in via Facebook

    This is an unfortunate article that did zero research into the human use of cannabinoids for cancer treatment. First off, there are some outright incorrect statements, such as marijuana use does not decrease chances of cancer. In fact, this study showed marijuana users have a significantly lower incidence of head and neck cancers (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19638490).

    Far more importantly, people have been using extracts to eliminate cancers for years. It was even confirmed in a November…

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    1. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Justin Kander

      Great points Justin and glad to see your name on the report you linked.

      It's very sad when people are dying from cancer and this sort of "academic rigour and journalistic flair" detract from potential cures or treatments. Especially when you've lost relatives to cancer.

      This single study you mentioned should be a strong focus in the debate: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901602/

      I hope for humanity that Nial and others that share his prejudice will read the overwhelming evidence and change their view.

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    2. Justin Kander

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Thank you for the support Danny. Indeed, that one study alone is huge, but when combined with everything else, the evidence is just undeniable. When examined, it sounds stupid to say cannabis doesn't work against cancer.

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Justin Kander

      ''When examined, it sounds stupid to say cannabis doesn't work against cancer.''

      Huh?

      Do people not read the article that they are commenting on? The author has given a whole pile of reasons why some initial findings in the lab have not translated to real-world efficacy.

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    4. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      The only demonstrable efficacy is that it can help to improve the appetite and reduce nausea for someone on cancer treatments like chemotherapy, but there's no actual example of the plant itself actually challenging the growth of cancer cells, only lab demonstrations using the chemicals in the plant.

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    5. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      G'day Martin

      "Every problem is an opportunity to learn something new" - Scott M Peck.

      The problem here is you haven't looked. As a starting place, I'd recommend: http://safeaccess.ca/research/cancer.htm

      Google is a handy search tool too. Some seem to think I'm the one making these claims, but I'm merely Googling and relaying established scientific fact.

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    6. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      The problem here, actually, is your assumptions, and I know what Google is. As a matter of fact, I know what Google Scholar is, too, and JSTOR, and other databases. I suggest that the real problem here is that you think Google has all the answers and as a result, you do too now. This is false, particularly if you're basing your presumption that I don't 'know' what you 'know' on the assumption that I haven't looked.

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    7. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      "there's no actual example of the plant itself actually challenging the growth of cancer cells, only lab demonstrations using the chemicals in the plant"

      Am I missing something here?

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    8. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      No, you're not, because lab demonstrations use just the chemicals, in concentrations much higher than they exist in the plant, where they're mixed with other stuff as well. You are also omitting the part where I explained that the plant itself CAN help with the nausea and appetite loss experienced due to proper cancer treatments, like chemo. That's what the science, through chemistry and demonstration, shows, not one or two case studies, but the majority of research so far demonstrates this. All the research I've seen that claims to show it can cure or treat cancer itself fails the scientific method in some regard, save for one paper that SET OUT to demonstrate exactly that and concluded that they were unable to produce demonstrable results supporting the claim.

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    9. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      And before you say, "show me these papers", I did this ages ago, and since decided to stay out of these kinds of conversations because the academic dishonesty they attract from 'curists' is incredibly distasteful and just gets on my nerves. So I don't keep this stuff bookmarked, because I don't need to. Mostly, because the scientists who actually work in the field know what they're doing, and I don't really care. All I know is if I get cancer, I'll be seeing an oncologist, not a hippy.

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    10. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      Ah, I think I see where we've digressed and can see your point. I'm a bit lazy and use the word cannabis, where I should be using cannabis oil consistently - my apologies for the misunderstanding.

      Then again, what are your thoughts on these two studies? There are more like these if you'd like me to find them.......

      "Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC"

      http://safeaccess.ca/research/pdf/MarijuanaUse_and_Head-NeckSquamousCellCarcinoma.pdf

      "Marijuana users had a small but statistically lower risk of bladder cancer compared with people who smoked tobacco or did not smoke, a large retrospective cohort study showed."

      http://www.onclive.com/publications/urologists-in-cancer-care/2013/September-2013/Lower-Bladder-Cancer-Risk-Seen-in-Marijuana-Users#sthash.HhIi1tYm.dpuf

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    11. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      The first one you linked is a pilot study that makes a suggestion, not a conclusion. It also published results in 2009 from data gathered in 1999-2003. It can be forgiven for not using fresh data, though, given that it's a pilot study that makes a suggestion, not a conclusion.

      The second one makes a comparison. "Marijuana users had a small but statistically lower risk of bladder cancer compared with people who smoked tobacco or did not smoke, a large retrospective cohort study showed." This comparison…

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    12. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Actually, I misread the second link you posted a little. I got the numbers right, and the overall methodology, but one of the reporting scientists themselves states that this is a also a pilot study, suggesting that it doesn't mean that smoking pot will save you from or prevent cancer, but that the cannabinoids themselves may have a use in fighting cancer. This is not unlike the discovery that lead to aspirin. The active ingredient of aspirin was first discovered from the bark of the willow tree…

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    13. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      Completely agree they'll be treating cancer with an extract, or synthesising some of the chemicals; just making a point that studies outside the lab do exist. Even thought the finding is small (because it is based off the whole-plant and not an extract), it is something.

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    14. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      'Something' isn't enough for a conclusion. People who look at pilot studies that SUGGEST a benefit and then use that to support a conclusion that there is one are deluding themselves, because the science so far is inconclusive. 60 years ago, before medical science became as rigorous as it is today, that's exactly what happened, and the results were things like treating colds with cocaine. Thalidomide was another good example of jumping to conclusions without rigorous trials. The scientists are trying…

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    15. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      Look, I think we have a misunderstanding here - I do not think smoking pot will cure any sort of cancer. It's the oil extract.

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    16. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Romano and Hazekamp in the journal "Cannabinoids'' 2013:

      The authors discuss the detailed chemistry/pharmacology of the various constituents of cannabis oil, and report

      '' But although it is possible - and even desirable - that cannabis preparations exert an antineoplastic activity in, at leastsome, cancer patients, the current anecdotal evidencereported on this issue is still poor, and, unfortunately,remains far from supporting that cannabinoids are efficacious anticancer drugs for large patient population''.

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    17. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, that paper examines different oils and you pulled that from the introduction - are you trying to prove that cannabis oil can't be a potential cure for cancer?

      How about we leave it at this: smoked cannabis does not treat cancer. Oil extracts, on the other hand, show potential for future cancer treatment.

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    18. Robert O'Connor

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      Martin your wrong! and over a thousand scientific studies disagree with your assumptions that you state as facts... THC kills cancer cells and is dose dependent but those doses are easy and safely obtained with pot oils(extracts and tinctures) which can easily be made at home no need for big pharma at all! pot oils will kill skin cancer in six weeks I know this as personal fact!

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    19. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Robert O'Connor

      No Robert, there are not over a thousand studies demonstrating that THC kills cancer cells because there isn't even one. Of course, you won't listen to reason, obvious by the way you play the paranoid 'big pharma' gambit, as if everything is a conspiracy to hide the 'twoof'.

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    20. John Kelly

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      "No Robert, there are not over a thousand studies demonstrating that THC kills cancer cells because there isn't even one"

      Complete and utter garbage just like virtually everything in the original article.

      Feel free to start at 1975 and work your way forward. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1159836

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    21. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Kelly

      That's okay, I'll stick with up-to-date peer reviewed stuff. Thanks anyway.

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    22. John Kelly

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martin Bouckaert

      Obviously you don't as Justin already published 2013 studies.

      Guzmán M: Cannabinoids: potential anticancer agents. Nat Rev Cancer 3 (10): 745-55, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]

      Blázquez C, Casanova ML, Planas A, et al.: Inhibition of tumor angiogenesis by cannabinoids. FASEB J 17 (3): 529-31, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]

      Vaccani A, Massi P, Colombo A, et al.: Cannabidiol inhibits human glioma cell migration through a cannabinoid receptor-independent mechanism. Br J Pharmacol 144 (8): 1032-6, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]

      Ramer R, Bublitz K, Freimuth N, et al.: Cannabidiol inhibits lung cancer cell invasion and metastasis via intercellular adhesion molecule-1. FASEB J 26 (4): 1535-48, 2012.

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    23. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Kelly

      And that's fine, there's nothing wrong with research. But if you want accurate information, then your research has to include analysis.

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  8. Comment removed by moderator.

  9. David Doe

    Videogame Producer

    "Marijuana is the dried and crumbled leaves of the cannabis plant."

    If you can't even get the absolutely most basic fact correct, what use is there reading the rest of your article?

    The parts of the plant used for recreational and medicinal purposes are the flowers of the female plant.

    Unbelievable that you would think to discuss the topic with any authority whatsoever if you don't understand the difference between the leaves and the flowers.

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    1. Martin Bouckaert

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rory Cunningham

      The crowd that claims this stuff has medical benefits exceeding what they actually have are no less voracious and wrong than the crowd that claim it's more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

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    2. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Rory Cunningham

      Indeed. The science is out there, but there'll always be those that refuse to acknowledge it - even when it's presented and right in front of them. I often draw parallels with "climate deniers". It also reminds me of politicians weasel words "I haven't seen any evidence to support XYZ's claim" - a true statement, meaning they probably haven't looked, and don't want to look.

      Imagine if a new treatment for cancer came out - they'd be excited and all over it. But as for cannabis oil, doesn't matter how much science is out there, they'll still deny it.

      What's worse is they gobble up articles riddled with factual errors hook-line-and-sinker. For example, the author inaccurately claims cannabis causes cancer, but the study he linked quotes "In summary, sufficient studies are not available to adequately evaluate marijuana impact on cancer risk". A far cry from even a possible link, let alone causation.

      Cognitive dissonance eh.

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  10. John Kelly

    logged in via Facebook

    As posted over on SBS to address this article and the fact someone with an advanced degree and a highly held career position can write such blatant garbage.

    ""Marijuana use can only damage health, not improve it."

    Here is the correct statement.

    Cannabis, because Marijuana is a racist hold-over term from the 20th century, can only damage health, not improve it, except where there is now quantitative data in regards to; cancer, Alzheimers, Multiple Sclerosis, Dravet Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety, Schizophrenia, HIV, undergoing chemotherapy, virtually all forms of epilepsy, dementia, diabetes, glaucoma, DVT and/or Tourette syndrome.

    Oh yeah and according to Hebrew University in Israel/Palestine it is one of the few things we know about which has the potential to heal the human brain, post injury.

    So, yeah mate, ASIDE FROM THOSE THINGS, "marijuana" can only damage health."

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Kelly

      Wow - from PTSD to HIV and MS to glaucoma?

      The more diverse conditions a therapy claims to treat, the less likely it is to be true.

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    2. John Kelly

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Except if you've taken a cursory look at the evidence for any one example and you understand what the Endocannabinoid system is.

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    3. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      True or false: "the munchies" are caused because cannabis enhances your sense of smell.

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Kelly

      There is a problem with taking a ''cursory look at the evidence'' without having a fundamental understanding of physiology or pharmacology.

      The endocannabinoid system is complex and affects multiple organ systems. Here is an excellent review from Pahrmacological reviews 2006:
      ''The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy'
      (http://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/58/3/389.full.pdf+html)

      It is crucial to read an understand the content of this review - not just read the headings. For example, the section on cancer outlines the in vitro (lab) evidence, but also notes the clinical immunosuppressive effects, which encourages cancer growth.

      As I said, this is not an area of cursory looks - it requires a complex understanding of the area in which the author of this TC article has more expertise than the rest of us.

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    5. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, I do hope you're not trolling.

      "the author of this TC article has more expertise than the rest of us"

      The author, while experienced in his field, has proven he has little knowledge when it comes to cannabis. As others have picked up:

      "Marijuana is the dried and crumbled leaves of the cannabis plant. The leaves can be rolled into cigarette- or cigar-like devices or smoked in a pipe." (hint: its the flowers)

      "Human lungs are not designed to absorb chemicals from the air." (hint: asthma puffers)

      ........ you get the idea (perhaps not)

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Danny Hoardern - I regularly go to courses and conferences where the medical evidence is reviewed on a range of topics.

      This doesn't involve cutting and pasting links to abstracts found on the net - it involves reading the entire paper, looking at the research question, the methodolgy, the power of the study, how the data and statistical programmes were used, what the limitations were, and whether the results justify the conclusions.

      Then, we look at a body of research in the context of what is already known, and consider whether the new studies bring any additional information or change practice.

      So, no, your pasting of a pile of links to abstracts is ''not going to make any difference''. If you'd like to present a competent analysis of the studies and what their findings were, it might.

      You have heard about Mr Dunning and Mr Kruger, haven't you?

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    7. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      The reason for those links is the paper you provided on immunosuppressive effects suggests cannabinoids "may" not aid lung and breast cancer but instead "may" encourage cancer growth. The paper doesn't take into consideration these in vitro and in vivo studies which find "significant inhibition of the subcutaneous tumor growth and lung metastasis" and "treatment with CBD significantly reduces primary tumor mass as well as the size and number of lung metastatic foci".

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    8. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      And Sue, FYI:

      The effect of THC on the immune system has largely been uncertain. A recent ground-breaking study[1] involving monkeys infected with SIV (our HIV equivalent) predicted THC would increase infection - instead they found the opposite. This is because THC produces and/or releases cytokones which boost our immune system.

      In fact, the results of the study suggests THC can mitigate death. Figure 4 is extremely telling, but the whole study is an interesting read.

      1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131805/

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