Can You Use CBD For Cancer? (Potential Applications, Safety)

How effective is CBD for cancer?

Honestly, there’s no definitive answer yet.

Some recent studies support CBD’s potential in treating cancer. 

Besides, CBD offers many therapeutic benefits like anti-inflammatory effects and chronic pain management. These properties can help patients cope with cancer treatment.

We’ll explore CBD for cancer, its applications, medicines, and safety in detail. 

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Can CBD Help Treat Cancer?

According to the World Health Organization, cancer accounted for 10 million deaths worldwide in 2020 (nearly one in six deaths).
That’s why there’s a lot of buzz around CBD and its potential use for medical conditions like cancer and epilepsy

But what is CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid found in the Cannabis sativa plant and other cannabis strains. 

Many consider it a complementary or alternative therapy for severe diseases, including the treatment of cancer.

However, clinical oncology studies on CBD are still in their infancy. 

So, there is NO clear answer yet.

Based on scientific research, some potential applications of CBD for cancer include:

1. CBD for Cancer Treatment

CBD (and other cannabinoids like THC) has shown promising results in cancer therapy.

According to Cancer Research UK, the use of cannabinoids could help:

  • Induce cancer cell death
  • Block cancer cell growth and division
  • Hinder the development of blood vessels for tumour growth
  • Reduce inflammation

We know what you’re thinking… Does CBD affect normal cell tissues? 

Research suggests CBD, alone or with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), seems to have little to no effects on normal cell tissues around the tumour. 

But do CBD’s potential benefits apply to all types of cancer? 

No clear answer yet — as there’s only preliminary research into CBD for cancer. 

Some in vivo and in vitro studies about specific cancers include:

  • A 2006 Cancer Research (Cancer Res.) Journal publication showed cannabinoids could inhibit pancreatic cancer cells (through apoptosis or cell death). 

It also found cannabinoid receptors (a part of the endocannabinoid system) are expressed more in pancreatic cancer cell lines than in healthy tissues. Simply put, CBD is more likely to kill cancer cells than normal cell tissue.

Read More: Learn about the Endocannabinoid System and Cannabinoid Receptors present in our bodies.
  • A 2015 study on mice found CBD and other cannabinoids inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. However, it didn’t test the effects on humans with prostate cancer.
  • A 2018 study on human breast cancer cell lines showed CBD suppresses the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • A 2021 British Medical Journal report (BMJ case report) linked the daily use of CBD oil to tumour regression in lung cancer patients.

The report came out after a lung cancer patient’s tumour shrank without the help of conventional treatment. However, doctors couldn’t confirm which ingredients in the CBD oil led to the observed tumour regression. 

Side Note: Researchers have found some cannabinoids might encourage cancer cell growth and damage blood vessels. These mixed results are why further cancer research is essential — it helps ascertain which cannabinoids can be a cancer risk or treatment.

2. CBD for Cancer Prevention

The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) has reviewed CBD’s potential for preventing cancer, finding results like:

  • A 2015 study reported a 45% reduction in bladder cancer incidence with marijuana or cannabis use.
  • A 2012 study found CBD displayed a chemo-preventive (the potential to lower a person’s risk of cancer) effect on specific colon cancer cells.

However, some studies in the review had mixed results about CBD’s benefits for cancer prevention.

Bottom line?

Further studies are needed to determine if CBD helps prevent cancer.

3. CBD for Cancer Symptoms (+Treatment Symptoms) Management

There are ongoing clinical oncology studies to verify CBD’s benefits for managing cancer symptoms. This includes its role in relieving the side effects of cancer and its treatment.

Potential areas of application (even for canine cancer) include:

  • Pain relief (for chronic pain or neuropathic pain)
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Easing Nausea
  • Depression
  • Stimulating appetite
Did you know: US singer Melissa Etheridge mentioned CBD helped improve her quality of life by alleviating the side effects of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

Now:

Doctors may prescribe cannabis medicines, like nabilone, to a patient with nausea or vomiting from chemotherapy drugs. 

These cannabis-based medicines differ from store-bought CBD products.

What’s the catch?

Doctors will only prescribe cannabis medicines if conventional treatment — whether for pain relief or the side effects of chemotherapy drugs — doesn’t work.

Side Note: Not all cannabis-based medicines contain CBD.
Nabilone and dronabinol are synthetic forms of THC and DO NOT contain CBD. That means they aren’t derived from the marijuana or cannabis plant.
Dronabinol is licensed in the USA (by the Food and Drug Administration or FDA) as a drug for cancer care, but not in the UK.

CBD-Based Medicines for Cancer Treatment in the UK

Here’s a CBD-based medicine a doctor may prescribe for a cancer patient in the UK:

  • Sativex (Nabiximol) for
  • Brain tumours: Sativex is licensed in the UK for treating muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. 

However, its use for cancer is still the subject of studies and trials. 

Scientists used it in combination with temozolomide (a chemotherapy drug) to treat people with recurrent glioblastoma (a brain tumour). The clinical trial had better phase 1 results than the placebo, but further tests are still underway.

  • Skin cancer: A study found the THC/CBD combination of Sativex effectively treated melanoma (a type of skin cancer) in mice.
  • Cancer pain: Researchers tried Sativex for pain relief in patients that didn’t respond to other pain medication (opioids). 

The clinical trial results showed it didn’t improve cancer pain (chronic or neuropathic pain) levels any more than the dummy drug. However, it helped cancer patients sleep better

Side Note: The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has licensed Nabilone (Cesamet) as a treatment for chemotherapy induced nausea in adults. 

It’s also FDA-approved for medical use in the US.
However, as mentioned earlier, Nabilone is a cannabis-based medicine that doesn’t contain CBD.

Is CBD Safe for a Cancer Patient?

CBD-based medicines may have side effects — mainly due to other compounds in the products.

For instance, medicinal cannabis products with high levels of THC and other cannabinoids could induce:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Mood changes
  • Memory problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Intoxication (feeling high)

However, CBD on its own is safe and well tolerated in humans in normal doses. 

But at extremely high doses (>100mg/day), you could experience side effects of CBD like:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhoea
  • Reduced appetite

Moreover, CBD may interact with certain cancer drugs and produce adverse effects. 

Bottom line: Consult your oncologist before using any CBD product.

What is the Difference Between CBD Products and Medical Cannabis?

In the UK, medicinal cannabis (such as cannabis oil) is a licensed medicine that only doctors can prescribe. 

On the other hand, a CBD product can only be sold and marketed as a food supplement. 

What’s more?

Cannabis medicines may contain high amounts of THC, while CBD products have little to no THC (which means CBD products may not induce a high). 

But here’s the kicker:

THC is illegal in the UK — it’s classified as a controlled substance. 

In other countries, like the US and France, CBD products can only contain up to 0.3% THC. 

That’s why most medical cannabis products require a doctor’s prescription. On the flip side, you can buy CBD products if they meet the country’s THC requirements.

Lastly, medical marijuana doesn’t necessarily contain CBD. But all CBD products contain cannabidiol in different potencies. 

Did You Know? There are three types of CBD products: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate (pure CBD). Broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate are THC free, while full-spectrum CBD has trace amounts of THC. 

A Safe Way to Buy High-Quality CBD

Studies show CBD can minimise cancer cell growth and induce tumour regression. 

However, the jury is still out on CBD use for cancer treatments.

Still, its potent pain relief and psychiatry benefits (including calming effects) could ease the side effects of cancer and its treatments.

Looking for a safe way to experience CBD’s benefits?  

Head to GreenBox and browse our high-quality THC-free CBD products, including CBD edibles, oils, balms, and more.