The last decade has seen oral cancer awareness become more mainstream with high profile patients. Bruce Paltrow, famed Hollywood film director and father of actress Gwyneth, succumbed to oral cancer in 2002. Academy Award winner Michael Douglas, spent much of 2011 in the public eye battling stage-IV oral cancer. With high profile cases come high profile questions. What are some of the other obvious and understated causes of oral cancer? Usually, most people link oral cancer with tobacco use. But, what else can be involved? New research shows that the HPV virus, best known for its cervical cancer link, is a causative factor. In a more obvious light, does abusing marijuana lead to oral cancer as well?
Attention is now being turned to marijuana as another possible source of oral cancer. Due to an increase in national marijuana usage, state by state legalization, and an overall laissez-fare societal view, fears have grown relating marijuana use with oral cancer development. Does the smoke from marijuana, or the properties associated with its chemical nature, lead to oral cancer? The overall consensus with researchers is, no.
Patients of mine, here in Orange County, routinely ask me the correlation between marijuana use and oral cancer development. They wonder if long term use of marijuana through the various channels of inhalation, including smoke and vaporization can cause oral cancer. I tell them, much to their enthrallment, that the risk between marijuana use and oral cancer is low. But that shouldn’t encourage them to get high.