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Study: Cannabis Users Are 55 Percent Less Likely to Have This Type of Cancer

An analysis of millions of hospital patients over many years has surprising results.

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A new study says that patients who use cannabis are 55 percent less likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. The results came from a study of millions of patients between 2002 and 2014.

Researchers from Georgetown University Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic led the study, published this year in the medical journal Cureus. They reached their conclusions after studying data for millions of people in the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) database.

The study is the first of its kind, according to researchers. While researchers found a correlation between those who used cannabis and lower rates of HCC diagnosis, they said they could not definitively draw direct causation.

"We suggest prospective clinical studies to further understand the mechanism by which various active ingredients, particularly CBD in cannabis, may possibly regulate hepatocellular carcinoma development," they wrote.

RELATED: The NCI Wants to Understand How Marijuana Affects Cancer

Analyzing Data From Millions of Patients

The NIS database is the largest publicly available in the United States for patients during hospital stays. Maintained by the federal Agency for Federal Healthcare and Quality, the NIS contains data from sources at the community, state, and national levels. The database adds more than 7 million new hospital stays each year.

For the recently published analysis, researchers looked at NIS data for millions of people, identifying almost 1 million patients with an HCC diagnosis and cannabis use. They then identified those with an HCC diagnosis who did not use cannabis as a control group. By applying multiple potential confounders and performing multivariable logistic regression analysis, they found the association between cannabis use and lowered risk of HCC.

"Based on our large database analysis, we found that cannabis use patients were 55% less likely to have HCC compared to patients without cannabis use," they wrote.

They also found that cannabis users:

  • Were younger than non-cannabis users (34 years old on average vs 48 years old)
  • Were more likely to be male than non-cannabis users (61.7 percent vs 41.4 percent)
  • Were more often Black (29.9 percent vs 14.2 percent)
  • Had less obesity and gallstone (but were more likely to be smokers)

RELATED: An Israeli Study Verifies What Many Already Know About Cannabis and Cancer

Other Studies on Cannabis and Cancer

The new analysis is the latest in a series of studies on cannabis and cancer. A Harvard study found that cannabis flavonoids may have the ability to shrink pancreatic cancer cells. A recent study from Israel found that cannabis can provide significant relief from the pain and nausea experienced by cancer patients. That finding mirrored findings from a previous study in Washington.

In The Netherlands, researchers are currently conducting a study on the impact of cannabis on liver cancer. Researchers launched the study after two separate reports occurred in which patients with advanced liver cancer had seen their tumors shrink after using cannabis oil. Years later, the tumors have completely disappeared.

The researchers in that study wrote that "the aim of the study is to see whether cannabis oil acts as an anti-cancer agent that will shrink the liver tumors."

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