By / June 5, 2024

Can Cannabis Protect Against Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide, posing a serious health challenge. Approximately 1.4 million new cases of this cancer are diagnosed annually, leading to approximately 375,000 deaths. Risk factors for prostate cancer are well documented and include age, ethnicity (particularly high risk among African-American men), and genetic predisposition.

Researchers’ interest has also turned to factors that may have a protective effect. In this context, cannabis, known for its medicinal properties, has become the subject of research for its potential anti-cancer effects.

The aim of the study, published in the journal Biomedicines, was to examine the association between cannabis use and the risk of prostate cancer. Researchers wanted to investigate whether a history of cannabis use was associated with a lower risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, using data from a large survey conducted across the United States.

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Methodology Used to Link Prostate Cancer and Cannabis

The study is cross-sectional and includes data from the 2002-2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The NSDUH is a national survey conducted in the United States that collects data on substance use and mental health in the non-institutionalized population.

The analysis included 2,503 participants who met age criteria (50 years and older) and reported past or current cannabis use. Individuals younger than 50 years of age were excluded because prostate cancer is rarely diagnosed in this age group, and individuals who did not provide complete cannabis use or health data.

Multivariable models were used to analyze the data to assess the association between cannabis use and prostate cancer incidence, while controlling for other demographic and health factors. These models allow for the adjustment of potential confounding factors and a more accurate estimate of the impact of cannabis use on prostate cancer risk.

The statistical analysis included calculating prostate cancer incidence rates for different groups of cannabis users and conducting statistical significance tests to determine whether the observed differences were statistically significant.

Research Findings

The study included 2,503 participants who were 50 years of age and older. All participants were divided into three groups depending on their history of cannabis use: current users, former users and people who had never used cannabis.

  • Demographic characteristics of participants : Most participants were between the ages of 50 and 64, with fewer participants over the age of 65. Ethnically, the study population included mainly non-Spanish whites, but also ethnic minorities.
  • Behavioral characteristics of participants : Participants differed in their lifestyle and health habits, such as diet, physical activity, and other health habits, which may have influenced the study results.

The Link Between Cannabis Use and Prostate Cancer

The results of the analysis showed lower rates of prostate cancer among current and former cannabis users compared to people who had never used cannabis.

  • Current cannabis users : Of this group, 31.7% of participants reported prostate cancer.
  • Former cannabis users : Of this group, 31.6% of participants reported prostate cancer.
  • Never-users : Of this group, 39.9% of participants reported prostate cancer.

The analysis of age subgroups showed that:

  • Age 50-64 : Differences in prostate cancer incidence between cannabis users and non-users were not statistically significant.
  • Age over 65 : Former cannabis users reported significantly lower rates of prostate cancer (36.4%) compared to people who had never used cannabis (42.4%).

Analysis by ethnic group showed that:

  • Non-Hispanic whites : Cannabis users reported lower rates of prostate cancer (28.9%) compared to never users (38.3%).
  • Other ethnic groups : No significant differences in prostate cancer incidence were observed between cannabis users and non-users.

Interpretation of the Results

The study’s results suggest that cannabis may have a protective effect against prostate cancer. Biological mechanisms that could explain these observations include the anticancer effects of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids can influence the cell cycle, promote apoptosis (programmed cell death), and induce autophagy (the process by which cells degrade and recycle their own components). The effect of autophagy can also be obtained by fasting for at least 16 hours.

Comparison with other studies shows that the results are consistent with previous preclinical studies that have shown that cannabinoids can inhibit cancer cell growth in various cancer models, including lung, head and neck cancer. However, it should be noted that these studies were mainly conducted in animal and cellular models, highlighting the need for further clinical trials in humans.

The results of this study provide additional evidence for a potentially protective role of cannabis against the development of prostate cancer, but further research is needed to confirm these observations and further understand the mechanisms behind this.

Discussion and Significance of the Results

The results of our study suggest that cannabis use may have a potentially protective effect against prostate cancer. Researchers observed lower rates of self-reported prostate cancer among current and former cannabis users compared to people who had never used cannabis. These results are particularly relevant in the context of people over 65 years of age and non-Spanish whites.

The biological mechanisms of action of cannabinoids in an anti-cancer context may include:

  • Cell cycle dysregulation : Cannabinoids can affect cyclin-CDK complexes and other signaling pathways such as AKT and Cdc2.
  • Pro-apoptotic effects : Cannabinoids can promote apoptosis by increasing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), activating caspases, and inhibiting the PI3K/Akt and RAS-MAPK/ERK pathways.
  • Induction of autophagy : Cannabinoids can stimulate the autophagy process by activating CB1 and CB2 receptors , as well as independently of these receptors.
  • Anti-invasive and anti-angiogenic effects : Cannabinoids can inhibit the invasion of cancer cells and the formation of new blood vessels, which is crucial for tumor growth.

Limitations of the Prostate Cancer Study

Despite the interesting results, the study has some limitations that should be taken into account:

  • Cross-sectional nature of the study : The cross-sectional nature of the study means that we cannot draw causal conclusions. The study only shows a correlation between cannabis use and a lower risk of prostate cancer.
  • Participant self-reports : The study relies on participants’ self-reports of their health history and cannabis use, which may lead to biases due to memory or conscious underreporting.

For these reasons, further prospective studies are necessary to more precisely determine the causal relationship and eliminate potential biases resulting from cross-sectional nature and self-reporting.

Conclusions and Future Prostate Cancer Research

The study’s main results suggest that cannabis use may be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. The results provide additional evidence for the potentially protective effects of cannabis, but further research is needed to confirm these findings and understand the mechanisms behind them.

If further research confirms our results, cannabinoids may be used as an adjunct therapy in the prevention of prostate cancer. This may have important implications for clinical practice and public health, especially in the context of an aging male population and growing interest in the medical use of cannabis.

(Featured image by Anna Tarazevich via Pexels)

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First published in Fakty Konopne, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.

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