Study Finds One-Third Of Canadian Cancer Patients Use Cannabis

According to a recently published study, more Canadians with cancer are using cannabis than in previous years.
Study Finds One-Third Of Canadian Cancer Patients Use Cannabis

A researcher has found that one-third of Canadian cancer patients use marijuana, according to a study released earlier this month. A report on the research, “Cannabis use among Canadian adults with cancer (2007-2016): results from a national survey,” was published online by the journal Expert Reviews in Pharmacoeconomics & Outcome Research

To conduct the study, Omar Abdel-Rahman, a researcher affiliated with the University of Alberta in Edmonton, accessed and analyzed data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS). The CCHS is a cross-sectional survey that collects information from a large number of respondents on the health status, healthcare utilization, and health determinants for the Canadian population every two years. 

Adult CCHS participants who responded yes to the question ‘Do you have cancer?’ and who had access to complete information about cannabis were included in the study. A total of 4667 participants who currently have cancer were included in the research. The research revealed that more than one-third of Canadian cancer patients used cannabis in 2016 and that the rate of cannabis use increased as the study progressed. The study also revealed that cannabis use varied in association with several identified demographic factors.

“Within this study cohort of Canadian adults with current cancer diagnosis, cannabis use is not uncommon,” Abdel-Rahman wrote in the study’s conclusion. “A history of cannabis use is associated with younger age, male sex, white race, non-married status, and higher income.”

The rate of cannabis use during 2007 to 2008, the earliest data included in the study, was 27.7%. That figure increased as time progressed to 34.4% in the figures from 2015 to 2016, the most recent data analyzed for the research.

The use of cannabis for medicinal reasons has been legal in Canada with a prescription from a physician since 2001. The recreational use of marijuana and regulated cannabis sales to adults were legalized in 2018.

American Cancer Patients Also Report Cannabis Use

In a press release about the Canadian study, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) noted that similar research determined that a quarter of cancer patients in Michigan reported using medical marijuana. The researchers wrote that “the vast majority of patients believe MC [medical cannabis] use to have resulted in improvement of the symptoms that were assessed, especially pain, poor appetite, and anxiety.”

In that study, a team of researchers associated with the Beaumont Hospital Office of Hematology and Oncology surveyed 188 cancer patients about their use of medical marijuana in 2018, after the medicinal use of cannabis was legalized in Michigan in 2008 but before legal recreational marijuana sales began in the state in 2019. The researchers found that 25% of cancer patients reported using medical cannabis.

“This survey adds to the growing body of evidence that MC is a safe and potentially effective adjunct to conventional medications for the palliation of cancer patients,” the study’s authors wrote. “Given the increasing prevalence of MC use among cancer patients, it is imperative that hematologist and oncologists become comfortable with discussing this topic with patients.”

The study, “Medical cannabis in cancer patients: A survey of a community hematology oncology population,” was published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology in September.

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