CBD for Skin Cancer–What Does the Science Say?

About CBD, Conditions

CBD for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In 2018, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer were diagnosed. Treatments for skin cancer vary from surgery to remove affected tissue to radiation and chemotherapy. But there may be other options available. Could CBD oil help reduce the effects of skin cancer?

Studies show that Cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant, helps improve many ailments, from anxiety and depression to epilepsy, pain, and many cancers. Recent studies have shown that it may help improve symptoms of skin cancer as well.

Cannabidiol affects the human body because of our endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system regulates physiological functions in mammals. CBD compounds attach to endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies which regulate cell function.

Cancer is caused by uncontrolled division, mutation, and multiplication of cells. CBD has the power to connect to these endocannabinoid receptors inside these cells to properly regulate them. Because CBD can connect to receptors in cancerous cells, CBD for skin cancer is a promising treatment according to early studies.

However, more research is needed to verify how effective CBD for skin cancer is. Most research so far has been done in vitro and on animals. Larger studies on humans are necessary to identify whether CBD for skin cancer is effective.

About Skin Cancer

There are two kinds of skin cancer: non-melanoma skin cancer, which is unlikely to spread, and melanoma, which is the cause of most skin cancer deaths and accounts for about 2% of skin cancer diagnoses. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two most common forms of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the former is an abnormal, uncontrolled growth or lesion in the skin’s basal cells. These line the deepest layer of the epidermis, while squamous cells are on the surface of the skin.

Despite plenty of research, the only effective measures against melanoma are prevention and early detection. An estimated 178,560 cases of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018. Melanoma usually resemble moles. It’s a cancerous growth that develops when unrepaired DNA damage to skin triggers mutations and rapid multiplication of skin cells that form malignant tumors. It can spread to other organs through the lymphatic system or the bloodstream. This makes it the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Using CBD for Skin Cancer

CBD for Skin Cancer

Recent studies found that cannabinoids inhibited tumor cell growth in lymphomas, prostate, breast, lung, skin, and pancreatic cancer cells. So far, most of these studies have been done on animals, but using CBD oil for skin cancer could soon be an option for humans.

CBD affects the body’s functions because of mammals’ endocannabinoid system and its CBD receptors named, CB1 and CB2. It may help with skin cancer by connecting to cells on the skin, which have CBD receptors, according to a study published in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

CBD and THC come in many forms, such as oils, sprays, topical creams, edibles, and more. Since skin cancer is on the skin, some people have been using CBD for skin cancer topically. For example, Rick Simpson used a cannabis extract with a high content of THC on his skin after he was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. Simpson applied the THC oil on bandages and wrapped them around the cancerous spots and left them. He alleges that after several days, the spots disappeared.

Michael McShane used Rick Simpson’s 90% potency THC oil for his skin cancer. McShane was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma several times and underwent treatments ranging from surgeries to radiation and chemotherapy.

He wasn’t sure cannabidiols would help him, but he decided to try it. “I had heard that it could work, but it actually did,” he said in a YouTube video. McShane said his skin cancer is finally cured and he won’t stop until he gets the word out about what cannabidiol did for him. “I’ll stop at nothing to get the message out, and my message is that marijuana cures cancer,” he said in the video.

These anecdotes are hopeful, but it’s important to remember that more studies must be conducted to verify whether CBD for skin cancer is a viable option. Currently, studies are too small and too limited to prove that THC or CBD can help with skin cancer. However, early studies are promising and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that people found improvements from a multitude of ailments.

Medical Studies on CBD for Skin Cancer

One study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2015 found that a THC and CBD mixture promoted autophagy of cancerous cells. Autophagy is a natural cell mechanism that disassembles unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It helps cells remove degraded cellular components and promote their recycling.

In pathological settings, like in skin cancer, autophagy activation promotes the cell’s natural defense to remove erratic cancerous cells and pathogens. The study concluded that cannabinoid treatment activates autophagy and apoptosis (cell death) in melanoma cells. The THC decreased proliferation, increased death, and reduced the growth of melanoma tumor in vitro.

CBD for Skin Cancer

Another study also found that CBD causes cell-death in cancerous melanoma cells.

Another study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology found that synthetic cannabinoids reduced skin cancer in mice up to 90%. They found the treatment slowed the progression and spreading of melanoma tumor cells in mice.

Concerns Related to CBD for Skin Cancer

More research is needed to verify the efficacy of CBD for skin cancer. One puzzle facing scientists is that contrasting to the tumor-killing properties, some cannabinoids like THC have been shown to stimulate the growth of cancer cells in vitro at low doses. In these early studies, the effects of cannabinoids are complex and sometimes contradictory. Scientists still don’t know what is the appropriate dosage of CBD for skin cancer or whether or not it will work in human.

Despite millions of people already using cannabis and CBD for a multitude of reasons, there are also side effects that come with any drug. Typically, CBD is well-tolerated because it’s non-psychoactive. The more common side-effects are diarrhea, changes in appetite, and fatigue, though these are reportedly rare. CBD can also interact with other medications.

CBD for Skin Cancer

Not all CBD oil is the same. It’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so dosage may not be as accurate as stated. There have been cases of CBD oil containing THC, which would give an intoxicating effect.

Final Thoughts

Because prevention and early detection give skin cancer patients the best chance of survival, scientists have been trying to discover novel treatment options for those who are already diagnosed. Current research shows that THC may be the most effective cannabis compound that may one day treat skin cancer, though research on it is still sparse. Research on CBD oil for skin cancer is even more sparse. While there are some encouraging anecdotes, it’s best not to get too excited until more research has been done. People who are considering trying CBD for skin cancer should consult with their doctor before taking the step to try it as a viable treatment.

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Last modified: June 3, 2019