Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mainstream Media Finally Does Its Job (Sort Of)

Well, that only took a month.

Earlier today Reuters News Wire finally took the time to report that lifetime marijuana use is associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer. That’s according to the findings of a population-based case control study of some 1,000 subjects, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

But you already know this because NORML initially posted the news in July.

To review, here is what the study found:

Authors reported, “After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma … [as was] moderate weekly use.”

Subjects who smoked marijuana and consumed alcohol and tobacco (two known high risk factors for head and neck cancers) also experienced a reduced risk of cancer, the study found.

“This association was consistent across different measures of marijuana use (marijuana use status, duration, and frequency of use). … Further, we observed that marijuana use modified the interaction between alcohol and cigarette smoking, resulting in a decreased HNSCC risk among moderate smokers and light drinkers, and attenuated risk among the heaviest smokers and drinkers.

Notably, Reuters‘ writers took a much more skeptical view of the study’s findings, as evident by the headline:

Could smoking pot cut risk of head, neck cancer?
via Reuters Health

Strange that Reuters would frame their headline in the form of a question. After all, the study’s authors expressed no such reservations, concluding in the final line of their abstract, “Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC (head and neck cancer).”

Reuters skepticism continues:

It’s unclear why marijuana would prevent cancer, if in fact the study is borne out by others, but the authors note that chemicals in pot called cannabinoids have been shown to have potential antitumor effects. Other studies have linked marijuana use to a reduced risk of some cancers, such as cancer of the prostate, and now head and neck cancer.

… Overall, however, research on the effects of marijuana on human health is mixed. Some studies have suggested the drug can increase a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke and cause some cancers such as lung cancer.

Let’s take things one at a time, shall we. First, it’s hardly ‘unclear’ as to why marijuana would be cancer-preventive. To quote the scientific journal Nature Reviews Cancer from 2003:

Cannabinoids: potential anticancer agents
via Nature Reviews Cancer

Cannabinoids inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animals. They do so by modulating key cell-signaling pathways, thereby inducing direct growth arrest and death of tumor cells, as well as by inhibiting tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. Cannabinoids are selective anti-tumor compounds, as they can kill tumor cells without affecting their non-transformed counterparts.

Reuters unnamed author(s) further add the caveat: “if in fact the study is borne out by others.” News flash: this study was performed precisely because pot’s cancer preventive effects had been “borne out in others,” such as this:

Study finds no cancer-marijuana connection
via The Washington Post

The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer. … “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

Reuters further states: “Other studies have linked marijuana use to a reduced risk of some cancers, such as cancer of the prostate, and now head and neck cancer.” Notably, the wire service failed to include that cannabinoids also have documented anti-cancer fighting abilities in the treatment of: brain cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and pancreatic cancer — just to name a few.

And finally, Reuters obligatorily adds that pot’s effects on health are ‘mixed,’ alleging that “some studies have suggested the drug can increase a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke and cause some cancers such as lung cancer.” Ah yes, the ever elusive “some studies.”

Well, as for cannabis smoking and lung cancer, that claim was rebutted by the largest study of its kind, profiled above. As for the alleged risk of “heart attack or stroke,” a large-scale population study by Kaiser Permanente reportedno association of marijuana use with cardiovascular disease hospitalization or mortality.”

That said, I’m all for the media espousing skepticism regarding claims about cannabis. Of course, were the MSM to apply this same attitude to the federal government’s claims about marijuana and pot prohibition, we wouldn’t have to suffer through stories like these, now would we?

Mainstream Media Finally Does Its Job (Sort Of) — It Only Took Four Weeks!

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