Leading Cannabinoid Researcher Ethan Russo Debunks “Cannabis Gives You Cancer” Paper

A leading researcher who’s spent over 30 years examining cannabinoids disproves a recent paper’s conclusions that cannabis use leads to cancer.

A renowned neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher has debunked the recent university paper that claimed marijuana damages DNA structure and causes cancer, the East Bay Express reports.

Scientists from The University of Western Australia caused a bit of “reefer madness” when they published their “Chromothripsis and epigenomics complete causality criteria for cannabis- and addiction-connected carcinogenicity, congenital toxicity and heritable genotoxicity” paper in the July 2016 issue of Mutation Research.

The authors, Associate Professor Stuart Reese and Professor Gary Hulse, concluded that marijuana use does unseen damage to a person’s DNA and that this damage leads to serious illnesses.

“Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA,” Associate Professor Reece said in a press release.  “With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population.”

The scientists generated even further alarm, however, by claiming that marijuana users are essentially guaranteeing a future cancer diagnosis for their children. The DNA damage, they allege, is passed on genetically.

“Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father’s sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,” he said. “The parents may not realize that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.”

Dr. Ethan Russo, who’s spent decades studying cannabinoids and their effects, claims that the conclusions of the Australian scientists are mistaken and unsubstantiated.

“This report is based on a foundation of falsehoods,” he wrote in an email to the East Bay Express. “Cannabis is not mutagenic (productive of mutations in DNA), nor is it teratogenic (productive of birth defects) or carcinogenic (causative of cancer). Countless animal studies and human epidemiological studies support its relative safety in this regard.”

Dr. Russo currently serves as Medical Director of Phytecs, a biotech company that researchers and develops health products that target the body’s endocannabinoid system. He is the founding editor of Journal of Cannabis Therapeuticsand has published over 30 articles examining cannabis and its pharmacological mechanisms.

Besides objecting to the paper’s conclusions, Russo noted that the abuse of a substance shouldn’t be compared to controlled, responsible use.

“There is a world of difference between drug abuse, and the judicious use of low doses of cannabinoids for therapeutic application in serious diseases,” he said.

The authors of the paper didn’t perform any studies to reach their conclusions. Rather, they reviewed studies that they claim “close the logical loop” that cannabis and other addictions cause these genetic malformations and thus cancer.

Russo argues that the researchers failed to control for the use of smoking or other drugs that are carcinogenic. Nor did they factor in other sources of DNA damage, such as sun exposure, stress, diet and a lack of physical activity.

“It is high time to move beyond reefer madness and acknowledge the utility and safety of cannabis-based [treatments] for the advancement of the public health,” he told the East Bay Express.

Decades of cell, animal, and human studies have shown that cannabis possesses several therapeutic properties, including the capability to prevent cancer, halt its growth, and even kill cancerous cells. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), an organization run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledges cannabis’ anti-cancer effects, recognizing that “cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.” Cannabis is also beneficial, the NCI confirms, for helping patients manage symptoms associated with cancer and the side effects of cancer therapies. Nearly all of the U.S. states with medical marijuana programs have approved cannabis use for the treatment of cancer.

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