Marijuana raises risk of cancer, other killer diseases

Thursday, November 25, 2010

LONDON - Cannabis damages the immune system, leaving the body open to diseases from pneumonia to cancer, a research suggests.

In experiments, THC, the chemical behind the ‘high’ of cannabis fuelled the production of a flood of cells thought to weaken the body’s inbuilt defences.

The finding suggests that cannabis, the drug of choice for many Britons, increases vulnerability to breast, bladder, lung and other tumours, as well as bacterial infections such as legionnaires disease, reports the European Journal of Immunology.

Worryingly, skunk, the super-strength cannabis that is particularly popular, may be extra-damaging due to its extra-high THC content, reports the Daily Mail.

While cannabis’s links to devastating mental health problems are well known, its potential to wreck the immune system has received less attention.

In tests on mice, researchers triggered the production of a ‘massive’ number of immune cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells or MDSCs.

These normally act as a safety brake on the immune system, stopping its battle against disease from spiralling out of control. But in the case of cancer, they may actually make it easier for tumours to grow.

“These results raise interesting questions on whether increased susceptibility to certain types of cancers or infections caused from smoking marijuana (cannabis) results from induction of MDSCs,” said Prakash Nagarkatti, lead researcher from the University of South Carolina.

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