Marijuana Linked To Testicular Cancer

By Amir Khan on September 10, 2012 12:36 PM EDT

Marijuana
The distinctive five-leaf structure of a marijuana plant is seen as it grows in a medical marijuana center in Denver (Photo: Reuters)

Smoking cigarettes leads to lung cancer, but smoking pot can cause cancer in a place you may not think. Men who frequently smoke marijuana are at an increased risk for testicular cancer, according to a new study, published in the journal Cancer.

Researchers surveyed more than 160 men with testicular cancer, and compared their drug use to that of nearly 300 healthy men and found that men who smoke pot are at a higher risk for testicular cancer -- and men between the ages of 15 and 34 are at particular risk.

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"The group that is at risk for developing these tumors is overwhelmingly young men," study author Dr. Victoria Cortessis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine, told NBCNews.com.

People who smoked marijuana recreationally were at twice the risk of nonsmokers to develop testicular cancer. And while testicular cancer is still rare, the disease could potentially be deadly.

"The truth is, the vast majority of men who develop testicular germ-cell tumors survive them. There's still a small proportion that don't," Cortessis said. Those guys tend to have non-seminonas, unfortunately, [which] require more extensive treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy."

Marijuana use was linked to non-seminonas, a kind of tumor.

Researchers said the findings question how viable of a treatment medical marijuana is, if it can raise the risk for cancer.

Despite numerous states having legalized medical marijuana, it is still illegal by federal law and patients can be prosecuted for possessing marijuana despite having a documented medical need.

In the United States, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which means it "has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision."

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