Zhang H, Xie M, Archibald SD, Jackson BS, Gupta MK. Association of marijuana use with psychosocial and quality of life outcomes among patients with head and neck cancer. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2018;144(11):1017-1022

Why was this study conducted?

People with head and neck cancer have a reduced quality of life.  To see if cannabis relieves pain, stress, anxiety and other symptoms, researchers at McMaster University administered two standardized quality of life measures (the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System and the EuroQOL-5D) to two groups of head and neck cancer patients: 74 who were current cannabis users (intervention group) and 74 non-users who were matched by age, sex and tumor subsite (control group).

What does this study add?

Marijuana users had significantly lower scores than non-users for anxiety/depression, pain/discomfort, nausea, tiredness, lack of appetite and drowsiness, and a higher score for general well-being.  These results suggest there may be a role for cannabis in supporting the quality of life of people with head or neck cancers.

Is there anything else I should know?

This is not a randomized or controlled trial. Rather, it retrospectively looked at differences between people with head or neck cancer who prior to the trial chose to use or not use cannabis. The results were encouraging but additional investigations, such as longitudinal studies or randomized controlled trials, are needed to validate the findings.

Author Details

The latest scientific evidence on this topic was reviewed by the Centre's leadership team. This research summary is written by Corinne Hodgson, DHealth, assessed for accuracy by Co-Director Dr. James MacKillop, PhD, an expert in addictions and mental health research. There are no conflicts of interest. Questions regarding this piece should be directed to Dr. James MacKillop (jmackill@mcmaster.ca).

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