By Paul Armentano, NORML
February 11, 2009
According to Google News, more than 750 media outlets — that’s 7-5-0, folks — have now weighed in on this week’s pot scare story du jour: “Smoking marijuana causes testicular cancer.”
So is there any truth behind the provocative headline? Some, but hardly enough to justify the media’s feeding frenzy.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research in Seattle matched 369 men with of testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) with 979 healthy controls. Here’s what they found.
Men who self-reported having “ever used” marijuana had no statistically significant risk of testicular cancer compared to healthy controls who never used pot.
Men who reported currently using marijuana at least once per week, and who had started smoking pot prior to age 18, had an elevated risk compared to controls of contracting a type of testicular cancer known as nonseminoma.
Sounds scary, huh? Well here’s the catch.
According to the federal government, millions of people smoke marijuana regularly. By contrast, diagnoses of nonseminoma, which typically affects males between the ages of 15 and 34, are extremely rare.
Nonseminomas account for fewer than one half of one percent of all cancers among American men.
Further undermining the study’s hypothesis is this: Since the 1970s, the percentage of American males smoking pot has climbed dramatically. By contrast, incidences of nonseminoma have risen only nominally during this same time period.
Of course, this is hardly the first time the mainstream media has jumped ugly on cannabis. Around this same time last year, news outlets from Reuters to Fox News declared that marijuana posed a greater cancer risk than cigarettes. Only problem was that the study they were reporting on actually demonstrated the opposite.
So why does the mainstream media continue to get the story wrong when it comes to pot? Good question. You can read my abbreviated answer here. And while you’re on NORML’s site, get the skinny on what the scientific literature really has to say about any potential links between marijuana and cancer here, here, and here.
Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC.