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Marijuana Use on Upswing Among Cancer Patients

April 29, 2019

A review of U.S. health survey data has found that marijuana use is more common among cancer patients than among demographically equivalent individuals without cancer. The research also found that prescription opioid use was higher in the cancer group, but rates of prescription opioid use were more stable over time than marijuana use rates.

Published online in the American Cancer Society's journal Cancer, the study from researchers at the University of California, San Diego analyzed 2005-2014 data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Among the sampled survey respondents with cancer, 40.3% reported past-year use of marijuana, compared with a past-year use rate of 38% in individuals without cancer. Prescription opioid use rates were 13.9% in the cancer group and 4.6% in the non-cancer group.

“Prospective clinical trials are needed to quantify the efficacy of marijuana in cancer-specific pain as well as the risk of opioid misuse in this patient population,” said study co-author Kathryn Ries Tringale, MD.

The researchers explained that the faster growth in marijuana use in this population likely reflects the wider availability of the drug in recent years through medical marijuana legalization measures.

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