Small study shows marijuana does not increase risk of head, neck cancer

March 04, 2008

Alexandria, VA - Smoking marijuana (cannabis) does not increase the user's risk of head and neck cancer, according to a new study published in the March 2008 issue of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery.

The small sample study, authored by researchers from New Zealand and Great Britain, found that among 75 cases of head and neck cancer, the relative risk of smoking cannabis and contracting head and neck cancer in marijuana users was the same (1.0) as in those who had never smoked cannabis. These results differ from the relative risk of contracting cancer from smoking cigarettes (2.1) and the heavy consumption of alcohol (5.7), compared with those who abstained from those activities.

However, due to the limits of the study, the authors cannot exclude other possible effects, and recommend a larger study.

Cancers of the head and neck, with more than 500,000 new cases diagnosed each year worldwide, represent the fourth most common type of cancer. It is estimated that more than 13,000 people will die from head and next cancer each year in the United States alone.
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Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery is the official scientific journal of the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). The study authors are Sarah Aldington, BMBS; Matire Harwood, MBChB; Brian Cox, PhD; Mark Weatherall, FRACP; Lutz Beckertz, MD; Anna Hansell, PhD; Alison Prithchard; Geoffrey Robinson, FRACP; and Richard Beasley, DSc. The study was conducted on behalf of the Cannabis and Respiratory Disease Research Group.

AAO-HNS will join in observing Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHNCAW) beginning April 21, 2008 and ending April 27, 2008. More information on the week's activities can be found at http://www.headandneck.org/.

Reporters wishing to obtain the full study may contact Matt Daigle at 1-703-519-1563, or at newsroom@entnet.org. Experts are also available to discuss the treatment and prevention of head and neck cancer.

About the AAO-HNS

The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (www.entnet.org), one of the oldest medical associations in the nation, represents more than 13,000 physicians and allied health professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck. The Academy serves its members by facilitating the advancement of the science and art of medicine related to otolaryngology and by representing the specialty in governmental and socioeconomic issues. The organization's mission: "Working for the Best Ear, Nose, and Throat Care."

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

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