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CBD for Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, and many patients hope to achieve better outcomes by looking beyond conventional medical practices.

In fact, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), one survey found that 65 percent of patients who had ever been diagnosed with cancer had tried some form of complementary medicine, like acupuncture or dietary supplements.

But can CBD help with cancer? Read on to learn what we know (and don’t know) about how CBD may be able to help cancer patients.

About CBD for Cancer

Claim

CBD cures cancer.

Research Shows

Ongoing or recently concluded clinical trials may tell us more about the effectiveness and safety of using CBD to treat different types of cancer. No results from human trials have yet been published, though.

Just the Facts

CBD may help cancer patients manage symptoms like pain or nausea. But the jury is still out on the question of using CBD to treat any form of cancer.

About Cancer

There are more than 100 different types of cancer, and they all start with cell growth that has gone out of control.

Normal cells will die after a while, and your body replaces them with new ones. But sometimes cells don’t die on schedule, and they grow more quickly than they should. When that happens, the extra cells accumulate to form a mass called a tumor.

If that tumor spreads abnormal cells into nearby tissues or other parts of the body, it’s known as a malignant, or cancerous, tumor.

Cancer itself can have a lot of different symptoms, depending on the type, its location in the body, and how advanced it is. The treatments can also have uncomfortable side effects like pain and nausea.

The most common treatments are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

How CBD Could Affect Cancer

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is part of a group of substances called cannabinoids. They’re found in the cannabis plant, and they interact with a network of chemicals and receptors found throughout the body.

It’s known as the endocannabinoid system, and scientists believe that it could play a role in a huge range of body processes.

That wide-ranging scope of action is why the possible medical applications of cannabis are so varied.

Some of the most promising research on CBD for cancer is focused on leveraging the endocannabinoid system’s role in the lifecycle of individual cells.

Because the endocannabinoid system has been shown to play a role in cell death, or apoptosis, researchers hope that cannabinoids like CBD could be developed into treatments that would trigger the death of cancer cells.

Some experiments have indicated that such a method could be effective, but there haven’t been any large-scale clinical trials to test CBD-based cancer treatments in humans.

What is more established is that CBD may be effective in treating some symptoms of cancer, as well as side effects of other treatments. Studies of cancer patients who use CBD for pain (usually in combination with THC) have shown that it offers significant relief compared to a placebo.

Research Highlights

We’ve gathered some recent studies on CBD for cancer—both as a treatment for cancer symptoms and as a potential treatment for cancer itself.

Read on to learn more about the current state of the research.

2018: CBD for Endometrial Cancer

This study evaluated the effects of THC and CBD on endometrial cancer, finding that CBD reduced the viability of cancer cells. (THC, on the other hand, had no effect.)

It’s important to note that this was an in vitro study, so it was performed on cancer cells that were isolated from the body. The results could be different in a clinical trial on human subjects.

The researchers were optimistic, though, concluding that, “Our data further support the evaluation of CBD and CBD-rich extracts for the potential treatment of endometrial cancer, particularly, that has become non-responsive to common therapies.”

2018: CBD for Cancer Pain (Research Review)

This review looked at clinical trials of cannabis treatments for patients with cancer-related pain. They found that in 15 out of 18 trials, cannabinoids offered significantly more pain relief than the placebo. Furthermore, patients reported only mild to moderate side effects.

Ultimately, the researchers concluded that the ideal dosage guidelines for cancer pain relief would include approximately equal parts of THC and CBD, and they called for further large-scale clinical trials.

2018: CBD for Cancer Pain (Clinical Trial)

In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, researchers looked at the ways that cannabinoids affected pain in patients with advanced cancer.

Specifically, this study looked at the cannabis-derived drug Sativex (nabiximols), which contains equal parts CBD and THC.

Interestingly, compared to the rest of the world, patients in the United States experienced more pain relief when using cannabinoids. The researchers proposed two possible reasons for this difference:

  • Doctors in the US may have prescribed lower doses of opioids to their patients
  • Patients in the US may have had different cancer pain types than patients in other countries.

Ultimately, the researchers concluded that for patients with advanced cancer, cannabinoids might be most useful when they receive lower doses of opiods. This could be especially helpful for patients who can’t tolerate opioid therapy.

2017: CBD and Brain Tumor Cells

This study investigated the possibility of using CBD to treat glioblastoma (GBM), which is the most common type of malignant brain tumor in adults.

The researchers found that CBD caused tumor cells to die more rapidly, suggesting that it might be possible to develop treatments for brain tumors using CBD.

Concerns About Using CBD for Cancer

Studies show that many people with cancer don’t tell their doctors about the complementary medical approaches that they use.

That’s why we can’t stress this enough: if you have been diagnosed with cancer and you are considering using CBD, talk to your doctor before you make a decision.

While CBD is generally considered to be safe, it could be dangerous to add it to your regimen without consulting your physician first. That’s because CBD can interact with other medications, possibly making them less effective. Your doctor may need to adjust your dosages to ensure that your meds are doing their job.

It’s also important to remember that there is zero evidence that CBD has any significant effect on cancer cells in the human body. Rather, all of the promising research has been performed in vitro, and what happens in a petri dish or test tube isn’t necessarily what’s going to happen in a real live person.

Most importantly, don’t count on a CBD product to prevent or treat cancer. It’s been shown that when you delay conventional medical treatments, you decrease your chances of remission or cure.

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The Author

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer is the Managing Editor of CBD Hacker. She's a writer and editor who has covered topics in science, health, and education.

When she's not writing about CBD, you can find her playing with her dogs or perfecting her bagel recipe.