CBD for Cancer

CBD for Cancer

Is CBD Oil Safe for Cancer Patients to Use? | UW Health | Madison, WI


According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. Strong survival rates in many countries are improving due to early detection and quality of treatment, however, the thought of a cancer diagnosis is not something anyone wants to experience or imagine. And, because cancer is a complex group of diseases, it can have many possible causes such as lifestyle habits, genetics, carcinogens, environment and sometimes there is no obvious cause. Common cancer treatments include surgery, medicines (drugs), radiation and now CBD as an adjunctive therapy for symptoms of cancer treatment and slowing tumor growth.

What is cancer?
Cancer can develop anywhere in the body and starts when cells grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. As this abnormal cell division continues, more and more abnormal, old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide without stopping and may form growths called tumors, states the National Cancer Institute

There are more than 100 types of cancer, but some of the most common forms of cancer include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Melanoma (skin)
  • Bladder cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Typically it’s unknown why an individual develops cancer, but research has shown that certain risk factors may contribute to one’s likelihood of developing cancer. Common risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Alcohol
  • Cancer-causing substances (tobacco, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat or materials we use to do our jobs) 
  • Diet
  • Hormones
  • Obesity
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Radiation
  • Sunlight
  • Immunosuppression

CBD for cancer
A 2006 study investigated antitumor effects of cannabinoids, with a specific focus on breast cancer. It was found that both cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinoid-rich extract inhibited the growth of tumors. And results clearly indicated that, of the five natural compounds tested, cannabidiol is the most potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth. Researchers concluded that the data presented in this study supports further testing of cannabidiol and cannabidiol-rich extracts for the potential treatment of cancer.

A 2014 study investigated CBD’s effect on colorectal cancer proliferation (or rapid increase in numbers). Researchers found that CBD inhibits colorectal cancer cell proliferation by activating CB1 and CB2 receptors. It was concluded that there is some clinical relevance for the use of Cannabis-based medicines in cancer patients.

In a 2019 review, in vitro and in vivo studies focusing on pancreatic cancer consistently demonstrated tumor growth-inhibiting effects with CBD, THC, and synthetic derivatives. However, the authors of this review do conclude that data on the anticancer effectiveness of various cannabinoid formulations, treatment dosing, effect on the body, and clinical studies are lacking.

CBD as a complimentary therapy

CBD has shown therapeutic promise in mitigating common, uncomfortable symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment including pain and nausea.

Pain relief
Cancer and its treatments often cause pain. This is caused by the cancer growing or destroying nearby tissue and the tumor itself can release chemicals that cause pain. Opioids are the most common route of treatment for patients suffering with pain from cancer and these painkillers not only are addictive but fail to work if pain is severe enough. CBD influences CB2 receptors indirectly, helping reduce pain and inflammation and allowing it to be an effective option as an adjunctive therapy in the management of pain. 

Nausea and vomiting in cancer patients is often caused by cancer treatments or the cancer itself, specifically if it’s affecting the brain or abdomen. Studies suggest cannabinoids, including CBD, may be effective clinically for treating both nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy or other therapeutic treatments help due to its indirect activation of 5-HT1A receptors (a subtype of serotonin receptors).   

What doctors have to say
According to Medical Jane, Dr. Sean McAllister, a scientist from the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, made an astounding discovery about CBD. He discovered cannabidiol (CBD) is a potent inhibitor of cancer cell proliferation, metastasis and tumor growth. And, you may have the misconception that doctors are against recommending their patients cannabinoids but in actuality, a recent study shows that 67% of cancer doctors view cannabis as a useful addition to pain therapies, but wish they knew more about cannabis and cancer treatment.

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