Research says marijuana can speed up human papillomavirus-related cancer growth

Updated on:14 January 2020, 11:47am IST
Marijuana has long held the title of a harmless drug. But this fresh research from University of California shows how it can accelerate growth of HPV-related cancers
Meghna Kriplani
Marijuana and its connection to HPV-related cancers is enough to snatch its title of being a harmless drug. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

‘Tis is the age of marijuana, weed, hash, cannabis… or whatever else you want to call it. Never has there been such a vocal demand for the plant-based substance in India and the world. Used for recreation by many, marijuana is also recommended medically in many countries for its pain-relieving properties. After all, there are hardly any side-effects of marijuana right? Well, if you believe that from the bottom of your heart–then we’ve got some news you’ll be very interested in. Turns out, marijuana can speed up the growth of human papillomavirus-related head and neck cancer. 

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine claim that THC accelerates cancer growth in patients with HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

Blame the tetrahydrocannabinol
You see, THC is one of the 113 cannabinoids that can be found in marijuana. It also happens to be the main psychoactive compound in the plant and is the reason why we tend to feel euphoria or a high after smoking up. But what’s it connection to cancer? 

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Well, the research–which was published in American Association for Cancer Research’s journal Clinical Cancer Research–states that when THC enters the bloodstream it activates a pathway which controls a process of programmed cell death, called apoptosis. When activated, this pathway–called p38 MAPK– prevents apoptosis which then allows cancer cells to grow unbound. 

Apoptosis is crucial for the body as it kills pre-cancerous and infected cells in the body–thus protecting you and your immune system. 

So is marijuana really a harmless drug?
While we can have this debate over and over again–the American researchers are calling for more research to bust public opinion about the lack of health hazards of marijuana. 

This is crucial, also because this isn’t the first study to point fingers at cannabis and THC for acceleration of cancer growth. In fact, many studies have connected the dots between daily marijuana exposure and an increased incidence of human papillomavirus-related throat cancer. However, the “how” of the whole mattera mechanism was unknown. 

Breast cancer
Marijuana exposure can increase the risk of HPV related cancers. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Also, read: Single dose of HPV vaccine might be enough to prevent the cancer-causing infection

“We now have convincing scientific evidence that daily marijuana use can drive tumor growth in HPV-related head and neck cancer,” said Joseph A. Califano III, MD, senior author and professor and vice chief of the Division of Otolaryngology in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Marijuana and other cannabis products are often considered benign, but it is important to note that all drugs that have benefits can also have drawbacks. This is a cautionary tale.”


  1. Don’t believe any of this one sided, biased bullshit. I grew up in the 70’s and my many friends and I smoked dope non stop for years and no-one got any type of cancer. We’re all in our 60’s and 70’s now and we still like to smoke up. What do you say to that?

  2. This is clearly an anti-marijuana video that you instruct your readers to watch. It really hampers everything else you’re trying to accomplish as a writer, if that’s what you would like to call yourself. If you had come in with less bias, then people will be more apt to listen to your opinion.

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Meghna Kriplani Meghna Kriplani

Waging a war against diets one cookie at a time, Meghna is a content creator and editor focusing on women's issues, wellness, and lifestyle.