Men should stop smok­ing cannabis for at least SIX MONTHS be­fore try­ing to start a fam­ily

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL - ---Mail On­line

Men should stop us­ing cannabis for at least six months be­fore they hope to fa­ther chil­dren, sci­en­tists have warned. Re­searchers took sperm sam­ples from 12 men who used the drug at least once a week and found it al­tered the DNA of their swim­mers.

Changes were found in the DNA that codes for both growth and or­gan de­vel­op­ment, with such ge­netic mu­ta­tions even be­ing linked to can­cer. Although un­clear whether these changes may be passed on to their chil­dren, the sci­en­tists be­hind the study have ad­vised men to as­sume the worst.

The study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Epi­ge­net­ics, was led by Dr Su­san Mur­phy at Duke Univer­sity. In the first study of its kind, sperm sam­ples were taken from healthy men—aged 18-to-40—who claimed to use cannabis at least once a week for the past six months.

These sam­ples were com­pared against the sperm of 12 men who had not used cannabis in the past six months and had used it a max­i­mum of ten times through­out their lives. Urine sam­ples con­firmed their mar­i­juana use. Re­sults sup­ported past find­ings that cannabis users have sig­nif­i­cantly lower sperm con­cen­tra­tions than non-users.

When the DNA of the par­tic­i­pants’ sperm was an­a­lysed, the re­searchers found

cannabis is linked to ge­netic changes. And the higher the amount of THC in the men’s urine, the stronger the changes of car­ry­ing mu­ta­tions were. It is un­clear whether these changes in­flu­ence a man’s fer­til­ity or get passed on to his chil­dren — the af­fected sperm may not even be healthy enough to fer­tilise an egg. But the af­fected genes are linked to or­gan de­vel­op­ment and growth, and have been as­so­ci­ated with can­cer if they be­come dis­reg­u­lated.

Although con­cern­ing, the re­searchers note not many men were in­cluded in their study and that other fac­tors — in­clud­ing nutri­tion, sleep and al­co­hol — can also af­fect sperm. They plan to carry out a larger trial that also in­ves­ti­gates if the ef­fects of cannabis on sperm get re­versed in cannabis users if they stop tak­ing the drug.

The sci­en­tists also hope to test the um­bil­i­cal cord blood of ba­bies born to fa­thers with cannabis-alerted sperm to de­ter­mine if any DNA changes are passed down.“We know that there are ef­fects of cannabis use on the reg­u­la­tory mech­a­nisms in sperm DNA but we don’t know whether they can be trans­mit­ted to the next gen­er­a­tion,” Dr Mur­phy said. “In the ab­sence of a larger, de­fin­i­tive study, the best ad­vice would be to as­sume these changes are go­ing to be there. “We don’t know whether they are go­ing to be per­ma­nent. I would say, as a pre­cau­tion, stop us­ing cannabis for at least six months be­fore try­ing to con­ceive.”

“What we have found is that the ef­fects of cannabis use on males and their re­pro­duc­tive health are not com­pletely null,” said study co-au­thor Dr Scott Kollins.

“There’s some­thing about cannabis use that af­fects the ge­netic pro­file in sperm.

“We don’t yet know what that means, but the fact that more and more young males of child-bear­ing age have le­gal ac­cess to cannabis is some­thing we should be think­ing about.”

More than 180mil­lion peo­ple use cannabis around the world, the au­thors wrote. The drug is le­gal for ei­ther med­i­cal or recre­ational use in more than half US states. Among 26-to-34 year old men, 20.6 per cent ad­mit­ted to us­ing cannabis in the past year, The Na­tional Sur­vey on Drug Use and Health re­ported in 2015.

“Since mean pa­ter­nal age for first child in the United States is 27.4 years, a sub­stan­tial num­ber of males of child-bear­ing age may have re­cent ex­po­sure to cannabis at or around the time they con­ceive,” the au­thors wrote.

Re­search in­di­cates that us­ing cannabis low­ers a man’s sperm count.

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