Young cannabis plants inside of a commercial grow site in Washington state.

Sarah Climaco

According to a study published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, 24 percent of cancer patients treated at Washington’s Seattle Cancer Care Alliance had used cannabis in the last year for both physical and psychological symptoms related to their disease. Researchers also found that legalization increased the odds that a patient would try medical cannabis products.

The study, led by Dr. Steven Pergam and his colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, found that 75 percent of the 926 patients surveyed, with a median age of 58-years-old, were interested in hearing about medical cannabis treatment from those providing clinical care, while 66 percent admitted to using cannabis in the past. Another 21 percent said they had used cannabis in the last month, and 18 percent said they had used it in the last week. Patients who indicated they had used cannabis within the last week or month indicated they used it to treat pain and nausea, in addition to using it to cope with stress, depression, and insomnia.

Pergam hopes the study helps “open the door” for more research “aimed at evaluating the risks and benefits of marijuana” for those diagnosed with cancer.

“Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information from their cancer doctors about marijuana use during their treatment, so many of them are seeking information from alternate non-scientific sources,” he said in a press release. “This is important, because if we do not educate our patients about marijuana, they will continue to get their information elsewhere.”

The study was published online today.

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