Cannabis Use in Young Adult Cancer Patients

The American Cancer Society reports that more than 60,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States, with about 4% of all cancers diagnosed in people ages 20-39. There are few studies on the prevalence of cannabis and cannabis-based products usage in cancer patients, but usage may be increasing, particularly in young adults.

Indeed, a recent small study that examined the cannabis use in young adult cancer patients found that many report managing their cancer-related symptoms with cannabis. Out of nearly 200 patients, approximately 30% tested positive for THC. These patients were more likely to be male and more recently diagnosed. Cannabis use was associated with moderate-to-severe symptoms that included pain, nausea, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and overall poor well-being. 

However, it’s important to note that this study was limited to the use of THC. It is not known whether patients began using in response to diagnosis and/or to relieve cancer-related symptoms. It is also not known how many patients (if any) were also using CBD products. 

While an interesting first look at cannabis usage in young adult cancer patients, additional research is necessary to understand patient use patterns and perceived benefits of cannabis for symptom management. 


Donovan KA, Oberoi-Jassal R, Chang YD, Rajasekhara S, Haas MF, Randich AL, Portman DG. Cannabis use in young adult cancer patients. J Adolesc Young Adult Oncol. 2019 Aug 22. 

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