Donovan, K. A., Oberoi-Jassal, R., Chang, Y. D., Rajasekhara, S., Haas, M. F., Randich, A. L., & Portman, D. G. (2019). Cannabis use in young adult cancer patients. Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology, http://doi.org/10.1089/jayao.2019.0039
Background: The use of cannabis by young adult (YA) cancer patients is likely to increase as medical cannabis becomes more available. Clinically relevant data on cannabis use are needed to establish benchmarks for use, to identify patients who are more likely to use cannabis, and to assess outcomes associated with use.
Objective: The current study sought to determine the rate of cannabis use in YA cancer patients ages 18 to 39, identify demographic and clinical correlates of use, and examine differences in moderate-to-severe symptoms between users and nonusers.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of objectively measured tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), self-reported cannabis use, and cancer-related symptomatology in YA cancer patients in active treatment referred for comprehensive supportive care.
Results: Approximately 30% of YA cancer patients tested positive for THC on urine drug testing. At the univariate level, cannabis users were more likely to be male, to have a lifetime history of smoking at least 100 cigarettes, and to be more recently diagnosed. Cannabis use was associated with moderate-to-severe symptomatology, including pain, nausea, lack of appetite, constipation, difficulty sleeping, and poorer overall well-being.
Conclusions: YAs referred for comprehensive supportive care may be managing their cancer-related symptoms with cannabis. Further research is needed to better understand patients’ perceptions of cannabis’s therapeutic and adverse effects, in patients who used cannabis before diagnosis, and in patients who commenced use in response to a cancer diagnosis.