A recently published study suggests a high proportion of US cancer survivors using cannabis are doing so for medicinal purposes.
Researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s Hudson College of Public Health analysed 2020 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS collects state data about U.S. residents with regard to their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.
For the purposes of this study, data was analyzed for the 22 states completing the optional cannabis use (CU) module in 2020*; which covered around a quarter of the U.S. adult population.
The results indicated cancer survivors showed a lower prevalence of cannabis use in the past 30 days compared to those without a cancer history (7.57% vs. 10.83%). However, a greater percentage of cancer survivors reported using cannabis for medicinal reasons (82.23% vs. 62.58%).
Among other key findings was a high prevalence of cigarette smoking among cannabis users, including cancer survivors. Also, inhalation methods (smoking, vaporization/vaping, dabbing) were preferred for cannabis consumption in both groups (70.42% cancer survivors and 84.16% other) and this means potential exposure to combustion-related toxins and irritants. However, in terms of individuals reporting cannabis use for medical purposes, those in this group were more likely to use oral consumption methods such as oils and edibles. Cancer survivors were also less likely to report binge drinking (6.87% vs. 13.52%).
Given the high proportion of individuals reporting cannabis use for medical reasons, the researchers state there’s an urgent need for ongoing related research to better understand and inform its use for these purposes, along with development of high-quality standardized education materials and clinical practice guidelines.
The full study report, published in the journal Cancer, can be viewed here.
*The CU module became an optional module to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400,000 adult interviews are undertaken for the BRFSS each year, making it the largest continuously conducted health survey system in the world. You can learn more about the BRFSS here.