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Marijuana use and DNA methylation-based biological age in young adults

Marijuana is the third most commonly used drug in the USA and efforts to legalize it for medical and recreational use are growing. Despite the increase in use, marijuana’s effect on aging remains understudied and understanding the effects of marijuana on molecular aging may provide novel insights into the role of marijuana in the aging process. We therefore sought to investigate the association between cumulative and recent use of marijuana with epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) as estimated from blood DNA methylation. A random subset of participants from The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study with available whole blood at examination years (Y) 15 and Y20 underwent epigenomic profiling. Four EAA estimates (intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, PhenoAge acceleration, and GrimAge acceleration) were calculated from DNA methylation levels measured at Y15 and Y20. Ever use and cumulative marijuana-years were calculated from the baseline visit to Y15 and Y20, and recent marijuana use (both any and number of days of use in the last 30 days) were calculated at Y15 and Y20. Ever use of marijuana and each additional marijuana-year were associated with a 6-month (P < 0.001) and a 2.5-month (P < 0.001) higher average in GrimAge acceleration (GAA) using generalized estimating equations, respectively. Recent use and each additional day of recent use were associated with a 20-month (P < 0.001) and a 1-month (P < 0.001) higher GAA, respectively. A statistical interaction between marijuana-years and alcohol consumption on GAA was observed (P = 0.011), with nondrinkers exhibiting a higher GAA (β = 0.21 [95% CI 0.05, 0.36], P = 0.008) compared to heavy drinkers (β = 0.05 [95% CI - 0.09, 0.18], P = 0.500) per each additional marijuana-year. No associations were observed for the remaining EAA estimates. These findings suggest cumulative and recent marijuana use are associated with age-related epigenetic changes that are related to lifespan. These observed associations may be modified by alcohol consumption. Given the increase in use and legalization, these findings provide novel insight on the effect of marijuana use on the aging process as captured through blood DNA methylation.

Authors: Nannini, Drew R; Greenland, Philip; Hou, Lifang; et al.

Clin Epigenetics. 2022 Oct 26;14(1):134. Epub 2022-10-26.

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