Mainstream Media Finally Does Its Job (Sort Of) — It Only Took Four Weeks!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 25, 2009

    Well, that only took a month.

    Earlier today Reuters News Wire finally took the time to report that lifetime marijuana use is associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer. That’s according to the findings of a population-based case control study of some 1,000 subjects, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

    But you already know this because NORML initially posted the news in July.

    To review, here is what the study found:

    Authors reported, “After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma … [as was] moderate weekly use.”

    Subjects who smoked marijuana and consumed alcohol and tobacco (two known high risk factors for head and neck cancers) also experienced a reduced risk of cancer, the study found.

    “This association was consistent across different measures of marijuana use (marijuana use status, duration, and frequency of use). … Further, we observed that marijuana use modified the interaction between alcohol and cigarette smoking, resulting in a decreased HNSCC risk among moderate smokers and light drinkers, and attenuated risk among the heaviest smokers and drinkers.

    Notably, Reuters‘ writers took a much more skeptical view of the study’s findings, as evident by the headline:

    Could smoking pot cut risk of head, neck cancer?
    via Reuters Health

    Strange that Reuters would frame their headline in the form of a question. After all, the study’s authors expressed no such reservations, concluding in the final line of their abstract, “Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC (head and neck cancer).”

    Reuters skepticism continues:

    It’s unclear why marijuana would prevent cancer, if in fact the study is borne out by others, but the authors note that chemicals in pot called cannabinoids have been shown to have potential antitumor effects. Other studies have linked marijuana use to a reduced risk of some cancers, such as cancer of the prostate, and now head and neck cancer.

    … Overall, however, research on the effects of marijuana on human health is mixed. Some studies have suggested the drug can increase a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke and cause some cancers such as lung cancer.

    Let’s take things one at a time, shall we. First, it’s hardly ‘unclear’ as to why marijuana would be cancer-preventive. To quote the scientific journal Nature Reviews Cancer from 2003:

    Cannabinoids: potential anticancer agents
    via Nature Reviews Cancer

    Cannabinoids inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animals. They do so by modulating key cell-signaling pathways, thereby inducing direct growth arrest and death of tumor cells, as well as by inhibiting tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. Cannabinoids are selective anti-tumor compounds, as they can kill tumor cells without affecting their non-transformed counterparts.

    Reuters unnamed author(s) further add the caveat: “if in fact the study is borne out by others.” News flash: this study was performed precisely because pot’s cancer preventive effects had been “borne out in others,” such as this:

    Study finds no cancer-marijuana connection
    via The Washington Post

    The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer. … “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

    Reuters further states: “Other studies have linked marijuana use to a reduced risk of some cancers, such as cancer of the prostate, and now head and neck cancer.” Notably, the wire service failed to include that cannabinoids also have documented anti-cancer fighting abilities in the treatment of: brain cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and pancreatic cancer — just to name a few.

    And finally, Reuters obligatorily adds that pot’s effects on health are ‘mixed,’ alleging that “some studies have suggested the drug can increase a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke and cause some cancers such as lung cancer.” Ah yes, the ever elusive “some studies.”

    Well, as for cannabis smoking and lung cancer, that claim was rebutted by the largest study of its kind, profiled above. As for the alleged risk of “heart attack or stroke,” a large-scale population study by Kaiser Permanente reportedno association of marijuana use with cardiovascular disease hospitalization or mortality.”

    That said, I’m all for the media espousing skepticism regarding claims about cannabis. Of course, were the MSM to apply this same attitude to the federal government’s claims about marijuana and pot prohibition, we wouldn’t have to suffer through stories like these, now would we?

    48 responses to “Mainstream Media Finally Does Its Job (Sort Of) — It Only Took Four Weeks!”

    1. Jed The head says:

      No wonder my health is doing so well at the age of 55. I’ve been using since 1968 on almost a daily basis. It’s about time the msm started paying attention. If smoking cannabis were harmful to us don’t you think all of us old hippies would have died from the effects by now? When I go see my doctor for my yearly physical he says whatever you’re doing keep doing it. I don’t use tobacco and I consume alcohol in moderation (a beer or two). I try to eat well and work hard and get lots of time relaxing while I smoke pot. I like my life style and I only hope it keeps working for me. Maybe someday a MSM reporter will do a story about how all of us old pot takers have avoided all of those terrible health problems while enjoying life. It seems so natural doesn’t it.

    2. James says:

      I followed the link to reuters, and was wondering how deeply the story was buried. I saw that it was in the health section so I clicked on the health menu choice and the story was the second story down which is fine because the top story was “Tobacco seen killing 6 million people next year”. Those 2 articles look really nice next to each other like that.

      Smoke on!

    3. […] here: Mainstream Media Finally Does Its Job (Sort Of) — It Only Took Four Weeks! Share and […]

    4. Lea says:

      Is there a test study on internal nerve damage ?

    5. Anonymous says:

      fantastic! I have showed my parents and I plan to show as many people as possible!

    6. High East says:

      I love NORML 🙂

    7. General-Jake says:

      Very nice. Target date of decrim? 2030

    8. General-Jake says:

      Matter of fact we can all rest easy. With the rate of reckognition of the truth in this world we be smokin totally legal by 2050!

    9. Fireweed says:

      Like #1 posted, I’m 51 years old and when people find out my age I get looks of honest disbelief. (Quite frankly I don’t think I look THAT much younger than my age but I almost invariably get that kind of reaction) I’ve been smoking pot for 36 years. My resting pulse rate is below 70, I can hop on a bike and do a good 80 miles or more in a day. I take no prescription medications, have no health problems and unlike the majority of American adults, I’m not overweight. Pot makes me work out harder, stay with it longer and have more fun with it.

      But society would rather have me prefer me taking an antidepressant than smoking pot, even if it means it costs the HMO giants some $1200 a month and it causes me to gain weight and develop diabetes, all for the pleasure of eventually building tolerance to the dcug and winding up even more depressed but then with chronic health problems. Oh, wait, I’m sure they’ll offer a prescription for those health problems then.

    10. Fireweed says:

      so to add to that, I doubt if Obama will read this or buy into this if it were pointed out to him, but doesn’t it seem that, between the medical marijuana applications (which contrary to prohibitionist popular belief are NOT anecdotal), and this news about reduced risk of many cancers, and yet undiscovered other health beneifts, wouldn’t it make sense that legalizing pot would help reduce health care costs?