Science & tech

The Medical Minute: Anorexia, Breast Cancer, and Male Fertility

Published on June 24, 2014 · Last updated September 23, 2022

This week, three more states (Florida, New York, and North Carolina) came to their senses and adopted medical marijuana laws — albeit limited ones. There may still be frustrating stipulations to overcome, but we’re crossing states off the prohibition list one-by-one. The power of education, my friends.

Speaking of education, we’ve got three new cannabis studies for you to add to your advocacy arsenal, so learn up, share the smarts, and know that you’re making a difference simply by being an informed citizen.

1. Does THC Help or Harm Anorexic Patients?

Our knee-jerk reaction to anyone questioning marijuana’s ability to treat anorexia might be something along the lines of, “Really? Have you never heard of the munchies before?” If only anorexia were that simple, but it tends to come with an array of other issues like depression, anxiety, over-exercising, and a willful resistance to food despite hunger pangs. Researchers at the University of Odense in Denmark honed in on how THC affects physical activity in anorexic patients, and they found that the intensity of exercise greatly increased with dronabinol (Marinol), a legal synthetic form of THC.

While this data is helpful, there are many other facets to explore before drawing any conclusions about medical marijuana and anorexia. There is no scarcity of anecdotal evidence demonstrating its value: it can alleviate depression and anxiety, make food seem irresistible, and physically relax the body. This study looked at just one synthetic cannabinoid — but what is possible with plant-derived compounds and whole-plant therapy? Would a sedating indica yield the same results in the lab?

2. Cannabis May Reduce Male Fertility

Forget tight underwear, Mountain Dew, and all the other myths related to the destruction of your sperm; according to a recent study published in the journal Human Reproduction, the culprit may be in your pipe. That’s right, cannabis — along with summer months, paint thinner, and lead exposure — was among the sperm-morphing suspects in a study of 1,970 men, whose ejaculatory bits were studied alongside a lifestyle questionnaire. Cannabis consumers under the age of 30 were found to have more instances of deformed sperm, which have a greater difficulty swimming through the labyrinth of lady-parts. But before thinking cannabis is all the birth control you need, remember that correlation does not mean causation. The team noted in conclusion that these are lifestyle changes to consider if you’re having pregnancy troubles, but as with all research marijuana-related, more evidence is needed.

3. Synthetic Cannabinoid Shows Promise in Treating Breast Cancer

The marijuana plant naturally produces many therapeutic compounds, like cannabinoids and terpenes, that work together synergistically; synthetic cannabinoids, which lack this chemical diversity, indeed have their limitations. Despite our eagerness to favor the medicine that grows in our gardens, we can still learn a lot from synthetic compounds while cannabis remains a Schedule 1 substance (insert angry expletive here).

Researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute found that the synthetic cannabinoid O-1663 had antitumor properties in breast cancer cells comparable to THC and CBD combined therapies.* After testing THC and CBD both individually and in conjunction with each other, the team discovered O-1663 and its similar cancer-fighting effects. Synthetic or not, that’s good news.

*When used together, THC and CBD have been found to have antitumor effects in some types of cancer.

Image source: Emil Nolde’s Untitled, The Sea at Dusk, Oriental Poppies, and Stormy Sea

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Bailey Rahn
Bailey Rahn
Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.
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