Smoking cannabis can alter a person’s DNA, causing mutations that can cause serious illnesses including cancer, according to a disturbing new peer-reviewed study.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the heightened risk is not exclusive to person smoking cannabis. The disease-causing mutations are passed on to their children, and several future generations, according to the study published in the science journal Mutation Research – Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis.
Though the link between cannabis and severe illnesses, such as cancer, has previously been documented, how this occurs and the implications for future generations was not well understood.
MailOnline reports: Dr Stuart Reece and Professor Gary Hulse from the University of Western Australia’s School of Psychiatry, analysed literary and research material to understand the likely causes.
Dr Reece said: ‘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.
‘With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population.’
While a person may appear healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also 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 fetal development of babies, potentially causing limbs or vital organs not to develop properly or cause cancers.
He said: ‘The worst cancers are reported in the first few years of life in children exposed in utero to cannabis effects.’
Dr Reece said the finding was of major importance due to the fact cannabis use is increasing in many nations around the world, as many 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 added.
The study carries implications for researchers, medical health professionals and governments in regulating drug use and protecting those who are most vulnerable.
The research has been published in the journal Mutation Research – Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis.