Toxicity and carcinogenicity of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in Fischer rats and B6C3F1 mice

Fundam Appl Toxicol. 1996 Mar;30(1):109-17. doi: 10.1006/faat.1996.0048.


delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC) was studied for potential carcinogenicity in rodents because it is the principal psychoactive ingredient in marihuana and it has potential medicinal uses. delta 9-THC in corn oil was administered by gavage to groups of male and female Fischer rats and B6C3F1 mice at 0, 5, 15, 50, 150, or 500 mg/kg, 5 days a week for 13 weeks and for 13-week plus a 9-week recovery period, and to groups of rats at 0, 12.5, or 50 mg/kg and mice at 0, 125, 250, or 500 mg/kg, 5 times a week for 2 years. In all studies, mean body weights of dosed male and female rats and mice were lower than controls but feed consumptions were similar. Convulsions and hyperactivity were observed in dosed rats and mice; the onset and frequency were dose related. Serum FSH and LH levels in all dosed male rats and corticosterone levels in 25 mg/kg female rats were significantly higher than controls at 15 months in the 2-year studies. delta 9-THC administration for 13 weeks induced testicular atrophy and uterine and ovarian hypoplasia; the lesions persisted in a 9-week recovery period. In the 2-year studies, survival of dosed rats was higher than controls; that of mice was similar to controls. Incidences of testicular interstitial cell, pancreas and pituitary gland adenomas in male rats, mammary gland fibroadenoma and uterus stromal polyp in female rats, and hepatocellular adenoma/carcinoma in male and female mice were reduced in a dose-related manner. Decreased tumor incidences may be at least in part due to reduced body weights of dosed animals. Incidences of thyroid gland follicular cell hyperplasia were increased in all dosed groups of male and female mice, and follicular cell adenomas were significantly increased in the 125 mg/kg group of males, but there was no evidence of a dose-related trend in proliferative lesions of the thyroid. There was no evidence that delta 9-THC was carcinogenic in rats or mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenicity Tests
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Dronabinol / analysis*
  • Dronabinol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344


  • Carcinogens
  • Dronabinol