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Cannabis use has increased significantly in recent years, and it has some experts concerned.

By Irina Antonova  12/23/2023

The use of cannabis can lead to changes in DNA that can cause genetic mutations and subsequent serious diseases, according to a new study.

Cannabis—also known as marijuana—is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. Its use has increased significantly in recent years, with a recent survey showing 42.3 million people used it in the past month.

The increased use of marijuana has some experts concerned.

The Health Risks of Cannabis Use

The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, analyzed data from about 9,500 participants from different groups, including parents and children, twins, and older adults.

Researchers assessed DNA methylation, an indicator of potential health outcomes due to how genes are expressed. The genome study analyses were evaluated according to the different genetic groups and adjusted according to age, gender, cigarette smoking, and blood type.

Researchers found that five genes with DNA methylation had sites associated with the use of cannabis, with significant roles in human health conditions. This included one gene (LINC01132) linked to liver cancer and ovarian cancer. A previous study, however, showed a lower incidence of liver cancer among cannabis users.

Researchers also found that chemicals in cannabis, including the active ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), alter the user’s DNA, which can cause gene mutations that can increase the risks of diseases.

Understanding DNA Methylation

DNA methylation is a fundamental epigenetic mechanism that regulates gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence.

Methylation patterns can be heritable and change over time in response to various environmental factors, including diet, lifestyle, and substance exposure.

Altered DNA methylation patterns have been associated with several diseases and conditions, including cancer, developmental disorders, and neurological conditions. Factors such as aging, environmental exposures, and certain medications can influence DNA methylation patterns, potentially impacting gene regulation and cellular functions.

How Does Cannabis Use Affect Future Generations?

The authors of a previous study, Gary Hulse and Albert Stuart Reece from the School of Psychiatry and Clinical Sciences at the University of Western Australia, point to the connection between the use of cannabis and the health risks associated with it and what this may mean for future generations.

The scientists are concerned that even when the user does not develop an illness from gene mutations associated with cannabis use, they can pass the mutation on to their children and grandchildren.

“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,” Mr. Reece said in a University of Western Australia media statement on May 24, 2016.

“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.”

Chemicals in cannabis can alter a user’s DNA, and this can slow down the growth of the cells. For a growing fetus, this could lead to underdeveloped limbs or organs or even cancer, the researchers theorize.

“The worst cancers are reported in the first few years of life in children exposed in utero to cannabis effects,” explained Mr. Reece in the press statement.

For complete article and research go to and Trans-ancestry epigenome-wide association meta-analysis of DNA methylation with lifetime cannabis use | Molecular Psychiatry (