Kaposi’s sarcoma, the skin malignancy infection related to the herpes virus is influenced by the active substance in marijuana, THC. Most prominently seen on AIDS patients, the vast majority of marijuana smokers probably do not need to worry about contracting the painful skin lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Kaposi’s sarcoma is an opportunistic infection of the skin that occurs when patients are operating with a significantly weakened immune system, such as when immune functioning is compromised by AIDS or after organ transplant surgery. Researchers have known that marijuana use seems to prompt increasing incidences of the condition, but until recently couldn’t say why.
Increased cancer risk
Research at Harvard Medical School looked at the role of THC, which is the active psychotropic substance in marijuana, and found that THC seemed to assist the opportunistic virus in entering the endothelial cells, which are the cells that make up skin and related tissue. The researchers also presented evidence that THC seems to additionally promote the transition to cancerous malignancy of the infected tissue, but they explain that although they are confident that THC is facilitating this malignancy, they are not yet exactly sure what molecular mechanisms are causing the increased cancer risk.
The study authors have concluded that THC increases the risks of Kaposi’s sarcoma, and they as a result caution anyone with a weakened immune system from using marijuana, medically or otherwise. Medical marijuana is currently promoted as an effective antidote to AIDS wasting for its hunger inducing qualities, yet the current study may call into question the practice of medicinal marijuana usage in certain immune system compromised populations.
The research leaders explain that while most regular marijuana smokers have a similar amount of THC in the bloodstream to the amounts used to induce sarcoma in the study, most people are unlikely at risk for this opportunistic infection, and that only those people with compromised immune systems should be concerned. About medical marijuana I am neither for nor against the use of medical marijuana.
The issue has become too political for my liking, and I believe that proponents on both ides of the debate have lost the ability to rationally argue the merits its usage. The fact that marijuana, in addition to having medical uses is also a mood altering substance does not limit its legitimacy, and if we use that rationale to disclude its usage, neither can we use any number of potent pain medications. Contrarily, neither is medical marijuana likely to be the panacea that its proponents seem to be arguing that it is.
Medical marijuana clearly has some limitations, as is illustrated by this recent research, and may not be as harmless as many would argue. Let’s have a clear examination of the facts, and use this powerful substance in a controlled manner when it proves beneficial, and keep it away from those that it would harm (which is the vast majority).