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The ganja fix - Jamaica could lead world in fighting prostate cancer with marijuana

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMAntoinette Pryce
A ganja field

On a cellular level, prostatic cancer is a disease considered to have a genetic factor and is caused by an abnormality in the human genome. In addition to genetic factors, prostate cancer, which is the primary cancer affecting Jamaican men, can be attributed to age. The prostate gland is composed of a tissue that is about the scale of a walnut and it is found at the base of the bladder in adult males. It is responsible for the normal development of the spermatozoa and for secreting enzymes, in particular prolactin, lipids and metal ions.

Prostate cancer is one of the three major diseases of the prostate, with the other two being prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Prostatitis is the result of bacterial or fungal infection, which causes inflammation of the prostate and symptoms such as rectal, testicular, bladder and penile pain. Urination and ejaculation are difficult because of the pain experienced during these exercise. This inflammation and accompanying infection is believed to also be a basis for prostate cancer.

BPH, which is an abnormal growth of the prostate, is not associated with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer, when detected early, is treatable and may be cured. Screening for prostate cancer can be done by a digital rectal exam (DRE) or prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

DRE involves the examination of the prostate for lumps or abnormalities by insertion of the fingers into the rectum by a health practitioner.

PSA is measured in the blood, where higher levels indicate a condition of the prostate and possible prostate cancer.

The percentage of men newly diagnosed is 50 per cent, with accompanying advancement in growth of the disease and a high mortality rate.

Medical marijuana research has discovered preliminary data on its anti-cancer effects, which Jamaica can develop in its hope to becoming a world leader in this field. The main active ingredient in cannabis is Delta-9-tetra hydrocannabinol or THC. It also is known to have an analgesic as well as anti-inflammatory effect. The management of pain in men with advance prostate cancer requires palliative care, which includes aggressive treatment with analgesics that have been found in cannabis. The discovery of cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous and immune system, which among other functions include pain sensation, is also a basis for further research.

While screening is of concern in the fight against prostate cancer, management of the disease is also important and can be seen in the impact of medical marijuana in cancer treatment.

- Antoinette Pryce, BSc Biochemistry, is a researcher for private consultants. Email: