Smoking cannabis can produce disease-causing mutations, experts warn

A new Australian study has shown that smoking marijuana can alter a person’s DNA, causing mutations that expose the user to serious illnesses.

Scientists warn that the heightened risk does not end with the user alone, moreover.

According to the researchers, the disease-causing mutations are passed on to the user’s children, and several future generations.

While the link between marijuana and serious illnesses like cancer has previously been documented, the cause of the link and its implications for future generations was not well understood.

Professor Gary Hulse and Dr Stuart Reece from the University of Western Australia’s School of Psychiatry analysed research material to understand the likely causes.

“Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA,” Dr Reece said.

“With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population,” he added.

The research, which has been published in the journal Mutation Research – Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis, indicates that although a person may appear healthy, the damage to their DNA could be passed on to their children, and cause illness for several generations to come.

“Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father’s sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,” Dr Reece said.

“The parents may not realise that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.”

Dr Reece said that when the chemicals in cannabis altered a user’s DNA structure, it could lead to slow cell growth and have serious implications for the foetal development of babies, potentially preventing limbs or vital organs from developing properly or even causing cancers.

“The worst cancers are reported in the first few years of life in children exposed in utero to cannabis effects,” he noted.

Reece stressed the importance of the finding, given that marijuana use is increasing in many places worldwide, as several countries begin to legalize its use.

“Some people may say that previous data collected doesn’t show there are serious effects from using cannabis, but many authorities acknowledge that there is now a much larger consumption of cannabis use compared to previous years,” he said.

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