Cannabis smoke damages DNA in ways that could potentially increase the risk of cancer development in humans, says a new study by University of Leicester researchers.
Scientists claim they have found "convincing evidence" that cannabis smoke is very dangerous for humans.
Using a newly developed highly sensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method, boffins found clear indication that cannabis smoke damages DNA, under laboratory conditions.
They have now published the findings in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology1.
The research was carried out by Rajinder Singh, Jatinderpal Sandhu, Balvinder Kaur, Tina Juren, William P. Steward, Dan Segerback and Peter B. Farmer from the Cancer Biomarkers and Prevention Group, Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and Karolinska Institute, Sweden.
Raj Singh said: "Parts of the plant Cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana, ganja, and various street names, are commonly smoked as a recreational drug, although its use for such purposes is illegal in many countries.
"There have been many studies on the toxicity of tobacco smoke. It is known that tobacco smoke contains 4000 chemicals of which 60 are classed as carcinogens.
Cannabis in contrast has not been so well studied. It is less combustible than tobacco and is often mixed with tobacco in use. Cannabis smoke contains 400 compounds including 60 cannabinoids. However, because of its lower combustibility it contains 50 percent more carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons including naphthalene, benzanthracene, and benzopyrene, than tobacco smoke."
Writing in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, the scientists describe the development of a mass spectrometry method that provides a clear indication that cannabis smoke damages DNA, under laboratory conditions.
The authors added: "It is well known that toxic substances in tobacco smoke can damage DNA and increase the risk of lung and other cancers. Scientists were unsure though whether cannabis smoke would have the same effect. Our research has focused on the toxicity of acetaldehyde, which is present in both tobacco and cannabis."