Social Determinants of Health Associated with How Cannabis is Obtained and Used in Patients with Cancer Receiving Care at a Cancer Treatment Center in Pennsylvania


  • Rebecca Ashare SUNY Buffalo
  • Esther Turay SUNY Buffalo
  • Brooke Worster Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University
  • Reagan Wetherill University of Pennsylvania
  • L. Cinnamon Bidwell University of Colorado Boulder
  • Abigail Doucette University of Pennsylvania
  • Salimah Meghani University of Pennsylvania


Despite increased rates of cannabis use among patients with cancer, there are gaps in our understanding of barriers to accessing cannabis. Social determinants of health (SDoH) are associated with access to healthcare, but few studies have evaluated how SDoH relate to cannabis access and use among cancer patients. We examined whether access to and modes of cannabis use differed across indicators of SDoH among patients receiving treatment from a large National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center. This anonymous cross-sectional survey was developed in collaboration with the NCI Cannabis Supplement consortium, which funded 12 supplements to NCI Center Core Grants across the United States. We evaluated the association of race, gender, income, and age with mode of cannabis use, source of obtaining cannabis, what influences their purchase, and medical cannabis certification status. Overall, 1,053 patients receiving treatment for cancer in Pennsylvania completed the survey and 352 (33.4%) reported using cannabis since their cancer diagnosis. Patients who identified as Black/African-American were less likely to have medical cannabis certifications (p=0.04). Males and Black/African-Americans were more likely to report smoking cannabis (vs other forms, ps<0.01) and to purchase cannabis from an unlicensed dealer/seller (p<0.01). Lower-income patients were more likely to be influenced by price and ease of access (ps<0.05). Although cannabis users were younger than non-users, age was not associated with any outcomes. The current data shed light on how critical drivers of health disparities (such as race, gender, and income) are associated with where patients with cancer obtain cannabis, what forms they use, and what may influence their purchase decisions.






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