While the debate surrounding the pros and cons of marijuana legalization continues to rage, the negative effects of marijuana are often played down by mainstream media and the marijuana lobby. Stats about the benefits of medicalised marijuana for those suffering from long term pain and other debilitating illnesses are often quoted, but the link between marijuana and cancer is often unreported, and many people are unaware that such a link even exists.

The fact is marijuana usage poses more health risks than most people realize. According to the New England Journal review, these risks include  an increased likelihood of developing lung problems, such as inflammation of the airways, exacerbating the symptoms of chronic bronchitis and also leading to an increased risk of developing pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Even more terrifyingly, there is also a clear link between smoking marijuana and developing lung cancer.

The reasons for this are fairly self-explanatory: marijuana is usually mixed with tobacco and, unlike cigarettes, isn’t smoked through a filter which can help reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that enter your system. Because of this, marijuana smoke contains between 50% and 70% more cancer-causing chemicals and substances than tobacco smoke.

Marijuana and Cancer Link: Verified By Extensive Studies

Whether marijuana can directly cause cancer is very complicated. It is clear that tobacco causes cancer, and extensive research has been undertaken that shows that tobacco use can lead to significantly increased likelihood of developing lung cancer. B

Because of the way marijuana is smoked and generally combined with tobacco, therefore, it’s fair to say that smoking marijuana will lead to an increased cancer risk. But does marijuana itself, taken in isolation, lead to lung cancer? There is significant research to suggest that it does, although further investigation is still being undertaken: there are huge similarities between tobacco and marijuana smoke, with them having at least 50 cancer causing carcinogens in common.

One of those carcinogens that they have in common is benzyprene, which we know causes cancer by modifying a gene called p53, which is the gene which works to suppress tumors. Cancer occurs in individuals who have faulty or modified p53 genes: as well as being linked to lung cancer, the p53 gene is also linked to several other forms of cancer.

Combine this with the fact that marijuana is generally smoked much more slowly, and inhaled much more deeply, than tobacco and we are left with a situation where marijuana users are at an increased cancer risk, often without any awareness of the dangers that they are putting their bodies under.

Extensive anti-tobacco campaigns and education systems focus on the health risks of smoking tobacco, particularly on the increased cancer risks that smokers experience. However anti marijuana campaigns tend to focus on the mental health issues that smoking pot can lead to, and on the dubious concept of marijuana as a gateway drug. Perhaps by educating marijuana users on the health risks they are putting their bodies under, we can help them to finally quit.

-By Gemma Carter

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