Taking CBD for Cancer: Is it a Wise Decision?
The term “cancer” refers to a collection of related diseases. These diseases cause some of the body’s cells to divide very quickly without stopping and spread to other tissues in the general area. Cancer can develop in any part of the human body. It is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
Cancer Growth and Metastasis
There are trillions of cells in a healthy human body. These cells grow and divide depending on the body’s daily needs. Of course, there are different types of cells that carry out different functions. Each type of cell has its own specific life cycle that is determined by its DNA.
When cells get older or damaged, they die and are replaced by new cells. However, cancer disrupts the natural life cycle of cells and causes abnormal growth. This abnormal growth is due to errors or mutations in the cell’s DNA. Mutations are usually corrected by the cell, but when they are not, the cell may become cancerous.
As mutations cause cells to become more abnormal, they may continue to survive when they should die. They may also produce new cells even though the body does not need them. These extra cells may start to divide without stopping and form clusters of abnormal cells called tumors. Depending on where they are located, tumors may cause serious health problems.
Although many cancers cause tumors, not all tumors are cancerous. For a tumor to be cancerous, it must be able to spread to other parts of the body. Tumors that spread to other body areas are described as malignant. Tumors that do not spread are described as benign.
Most cancers have solid tumors. However, some cancers of the blood do not have solid tumors. The process by which malignant cells spread to distant parts of the body is called metastasis. These malignant (cancerous) cells travel through the blood or lymphatic vessels and may eventually form new tumors far away from the original tumor.
Cancer is dangerous because malignant cells multiply uncontrollably and crowd out healthy cells. They also consume nutrients from body tissues and interfere with normal body functions. All cancers have the potential to become life-threatening. Metastatic cancers that travel through the blood or lymphatic vessels are the most difficult to treat.
Types of Cancer
There are more than 120 different types of cancer. Many of them are named after the part of the body they affect initially or the type of cell they consist of. For example, many people are familiar with diseases such as breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer. However, the different types of cancers are often separated into five major categories. These are:
- Carcinoma – the most common type of cancer. It may start in your skin or the outer lining of your organs. Skin cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer are carcinomas.
- Sarcoma – a rare form of cancer that grows in your connective tissue. It usually affects your bones, tendons, muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and cartilage. There are more than 50 different kinds of sarcomas. However, they may be categorized into two main groups: bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcomas.
- Lymphoma – this type of cancer starts in your lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are cells that fight infection and make up a part of your immune system. They are typically located in your lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus. There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin.
- Leukemia – cancer of the blood. It causes the white blood cells in your body to increase rapidly. Many of these extra white blood cells do not function properly. They also crowd out your red blood cells and platelets.
Symptoms of Cancer
The type of cancer a person has may influence the type of symptoms he or she experiences. Even if individuals have the same type of cancer, they may have slightly different symptoms. These symptoms are often caused by injury, illness, tumors, or other health issues. If you have symptoms that do not get better after a few weeks, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor.
A few common symptoms of cancer are:
- Chronic fatigue
- Itchy, red, dimpled, or scaly skin
- Firm swellings or lumps
- Blood in your urine
- Blood in your stool
- Eating issues
- Getting white or red patches on your tongue or in your mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bruising or bleeding for o known reason
- Fever or night sweats
- Changes in vision
- Drooping of the face
- Weight loss or weight gain for no known reason
Risk Factors for Cancer
Cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of your cells. Some mutations are hereditary and can be passed on from parents to children. Other mutations may occur due to certain factors in your environment. A few of these risk factors include:
- Exposure to high levels of radiation
- Prolonged unprotected exposure to high intensity sunlight
- Exposure to chemicals that cause cancer (carcinogens)
- Contracting some viruses such as HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Other chronic health issues such as ulcerative colitis
- Regularly eating an unhealthy diet
- Getting very little physical exercise
CBD for Cancer: Can It Really Help?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical substance that is found in Cannabis sativa plants such as marijuana and hemp. Many people with cancer report that CBD and CBD products have helped them to cope with the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment. Scientists are also investigating how CBD may help people with cancer. At the moment, more research is needed before any definite conclusions can be made.
Some men and women are afraid of using CBD because they believe it will make them intoxicated or high. However, the cannabinoid in marijuana that makes people high is called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a different from CBD. CBD does not have any psychoactive effects so it will not make you high, intoxicated, or confused if you use it.
CBD As a Treatment for Cancer
There is growing scientific evidence that CBD may help reduce the growth of tumors in animals with cancer. CBD may also increase the uptake of anticancer medications.
A few promising studies are listed below:
- A 2019 review investigated the effect of CBD as a treatment for pancreatic cancer. The researchers concluded that CBD helps to slow tumor growth and kill tumor cells. They claim cannabinoids may be an effective adjunct treatment for pancreatic cancer.
- A 2019 study showed that CBD can induce death in glioblastoma cells by making them more sensitive to radiation treatment. Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of cancer than affects the brain or spinal cord. CBD had no negative effects on healthy cells.
- A 2015 study revealed that bladder cancer is less prevalent among men who use cannabis.
- A 2014 study explored the effect of CBD on colon cancer. The researchers concluded that CBD may help reduce the spread of colorectal cancer cells.
- A 2014 literature review on how CBD affects glioma cells claimed CBD shows promise as an antitumor treatment.
- A 2010 study showed CBD may help reduce the proliferation, invasion, and metastasis of breast cancer cells.
While these studies suggest CBD may help with cancer treatment, more research is needed to determine the exact effect of CBD on humans with cancer.
CBD As a Complementary Treatment for Cancer
Traditional treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation often have negative side effects. These side effects may include poor appetite, weight loss, hair loss, nausea, and vomiting. A 2016 study suggests CBD may help to ease symptoms such as neuropathic pain, feelings of nausea, and loss of appetite that are usually associated with cancer or cancer treatment. The National Cancer Institute acknowledges that the anti-anxiety and anticancer effects of cannabinoids such as CBD “may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects.”
CBD is available in a number of forms including oils, vape, sprays, and tincture. It may also be added to food items such as coffee, tea, candy, baked goods, salads, and ice cream.
CBD As a Cancer Preventive
Although there is mounting evidence for the effectiveness of CBD for cancer treatment, more research is needed to find out how effective it is for cancer prevention. Long-term clinical studies with specific CBD products may provide much useful information for cancer prevention in the future.
Cannabinoids in Brain Cancer
A glioma is a brain tumor that develops from glial cells. Glial cells provide nerve cells with nutrients and energy and also help to maintain the blood-brain barrier. Currently, it is not possible to cure high-grade glioma patients. The median survival time for people with high grade glioma is one year.
In Brazil, there is an interesting 2018 case study on two patients who have secondary high-grade glioma. They were treated with a combination of chemo radiation, PCV medications, and CBD. More than two and a half years later, both patients are still alive, their brain cancer has not progressed, they have no significant side effects, and they are now able to engage in physical activities such as sports without excessive fatigue or nausea.