Sex differences exist in the perceived relief of cancer symptoms with medical cannabis: results from the Quebec Cannabis Registry

Support Care Cancer. 2022 Jun 20. doi: 10.1007/s00520-022-07193-1. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Purpose: This study explored whether symptom relief differs by sex in patients with cancer receiving medical cannabis (MC) therapy.

Methods: This is an analysis of data collected from patients with cancer enrolled in the Quebec Cannabis Registry. MC was initiated for the therapeutic management of cancer symptoms. Patients completed the revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS-r) questionnaire at baseline and 3-month follow-up. We examined the interaction between sex and time on each ESAS-r symptom and the interaction between time and tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol (THC:CBD) ratios for each sex on total symptom burden.

Results: The analysis included 358 patients (M: 171). There were no sex differences in baseline ESAS-r scores. Three months of MC therapy led to significant improvements in pain (M: - 1.4 ± 0.3, p < 0.001; F: - 1.1 ± 0.3, p < 0.01), tiredness (M: - 1.7 ± 0.4, p < 0.001; F: - 1.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.05), anxiety (M: - 1.1 ± 0.4, p < 0.05; F: - 1.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.001), and well-being (M: - 1.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.05; F: - 1.4 ± 0.4, p < 0.01) in both sexes. Only F perceived improved drowsiness (- 1.1 ± 0.4, p < 0.05), nausea (- 0.9 ± 0.3, p < 0.05), lack of appetite (- 1.7 ± 0.4, p < 0.001), and shortness of breath (- 0.9 ± 0.3, p < 0.05). From baseline to 3-month follow-up, THC-dominant MC significantly reduced pain (- 1.52 ± 0.52, p < 0.05) in M, whereas in F it diminished nausea (- 2.52 ± 0.70, p < 0.01) and improved well-being (- 2.41 ± 0.79, p < 0.05). THC:CBD-balanced products significantly reduced pain (- 1.48 ± 0.49, p < 0.05), tiredness (- 1.82 ± 0.62, p < 0.05), anxiety (- 1.83 ± 0.54, p < 0.05), and improved well-being (- 2.01 ± 0.56, p < 0.01) in M. CBD-dominant products did not offer significant symptom relief in either sex.

Conclusion: The perceived relief of cancer symptoms from MC differs between sexes. More randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm our findings.

Keywords: Cancer; Medical marijuana; Palliative medicine; Sex characteristics; Symptom burden.