When compared to the general public, cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis for medical purposes but less likely to use cannabis in general, according to study results published in Cancer

Researchers conducted this study using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual phone-based survey of US residents. Data on cannabis use were collected from residents in 22 states in 2020. 

The total study sample included 135,610 respondents — 13,063 who were cancer survivors (excluding skin cancer) and 122,547 who had no history of cancer. 

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Respondents who said they used cannabis at least once in the past 30 days were asked about the reasons for their cannabis use and the primary method of administration. 

Overall, 10.6% of respondents identified themselves as current cannabis users, 46.02% of whom lived in a state where cannabis use is legal. 

Cancer survivors were less likely to report cannabis use than people without a history of cancer (7.57% and 10.83%, respectively).

Most cannabis users (63.58%) reported using it for medical purposes. This was true for cancer survivors (82.23%) and people without a history of cancer (62.58%).

Most cannabis users reported that inhalation was their primary method of consumption. This was true for cancer survivors (70.42%) and individuals with no history of cancer (84.16%). The researchers called this finding “potentially worrisome” due to the possibility of adverse effects on the respiratory system resulting from inhalation. 

However, among individuals who reported using cannabis for medical purposes, oral cannabis consumption was more common than inhalation for both cancer survivors (adjusted prevalence odds ratio [aPOR], 2.52; 95% CI, 1.46-4.36) and people without a cancer history (aPOR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.16-1.83).

The researchers concluded that these findings “support the urgent need for ongoing cannabis research to better understand and inform its use for medical purposes, as well as the development of high‐quality standardized education materials and clinical practice guidelines.”


Sedani AE, Campbell JE, Beebe LA. Cannabis use among cancer survivors in 22 states: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2020. Cancer. Published online April 7, 2023. doi:10.1002/cncr.34793