Marijuana. Credit: Wikimedia commons

Marijuana use could increase the risk of developing testicular cancer, researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) have found.

Researchers have found that marijuana has certain chemicals that affect the testicular cells, which in turn increases the risk of developing testicular cancer.

The discovery was made while analysing the data of more than 450 men. Among the 455 men, 163 men had used recreational drugs (Marijuana and cocaine) in their past and they compared it 292 healthy men of the same age and race/ethnicity.

The study found that men with a history of using marijuana were twice as likely to have subtypes of testicular cancer called non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. These tumors usually occur in younger men and carry a somewhat worse prognosis than the seminoma subtype, according to the findings published in Cancer journal.

"We do not know what marijuana triggers in the testis that may lead to carcinogenesis, although we speculate that it may be acting through the endocannabinoid system-the cellular network that responds to the active ingredient in marijuana-since this system has been shown to be important in the formation of sperm," said Victoria Cortessis, MSPH, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Researchers also found that men with a history of using cocaine had a reduced risk of both subtypes of testicular cancer.

Although the researchers have found that cocaine reduces testicular cancer risk, they are still not sure as how it does this - however they suspect that the drug may kill sperm-producing germ cells since it has this effect on experimental animals, according to Eurekalert report.

"If this is correct, then 'prevention' would come at a high price," Cortessis said. "Although germ cells can not develop cancer if they are first destroyed, fertility would also be impaired. Since this is the first study in which an association between cocaine use and lower testis cancer risk is noted, additional epidemiological studies are needed to validate the results."