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Legal Cannabis Use Common Among Cancer Patients

MONDAY, Oct. 2, 2017 -- In Washington state, where cannabis is legal, cancer patients have high rates of active use, and they report that legalization was an important factor in their decision to use, according to a study published online Sept. 25 in Cancer.

Steven A. Pergam, M.D., M.P.H., from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and colleagues conducted an anonymous survey of 926 adult cancer patients in Washington to determine the prevalence and methods of use of cannabis. Analysis of random urine samples for tetrahydrocannabinol provided survey validation.

The researchers found that most respondents had a strong interest in learning about cannabis during treatment (6 on a 1-10 scale) and wanted information from cancer providers (74 percent). Previous use was common (66 percent), with 24 percent using cannabis in the last year, 21 percent using cannabis in the last month, and 14 percent reporting weekly use. Cannabis was used for physical (75 percent) and neuropsychiatric symptoms (63 percent). In more than half of respondents, legalization significantly increased the likelihood of use.

"This study of cancer patients in a state with legalized cannabis found high rates of active use across broad subgroups, and legalization was reported to be important in patients' decision to use," conclude the authors. "Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information about cannabis use during their treatment from oncology providers."

Several authors report financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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Posted: October 2017