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Cannabis, CBD oil and cancer

Cannabis is a plant and a class B drug. It affects people differently. It can make you feel relaxed and chilled but it can also make you feel sick, affect your memory and make you feel lethargic. CBD oil is a chemical found in cannabis.

Summary:

  • Cannabis has been used for centuries recreationally and as a medicine.
  • It is illegal to possess or supply cannabis as it is a class B drug.
  • Research is looking at the substances in cannabis to see if it might help treat cancer.
  • There are anti sickness medicines that contain man-made substances of cannabis.

What are cannabis and cannabinoids?

Cannabis is a plant. It is known by many names including marijuana, weed, hemp, grass, pot, dope, ganja and hash.

The plant produces a resin that contains a number of substances or chemicals. These are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids can have medicinal effects on the body.
The main cannabinoids are:

  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)

THC is a psychoactive substance that can create a ‘high’ feeling. It can affect how your brain works, changing your mood and how you feel.

CBD is a cannabinoid that may relieve pain, lower inflammation and decrease anxiety without the psychoactive ‘high’ effect of THC.

Different types of cannabis have differing amounts of these and other chemicals in them. This means they can have different effects on the body.

Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK. This means that it is illegal to have it, sell it or buy it.

CBD oil, cannabis oil and hemp oil

There are different types of oil made from parts of the cannabis plant. Some are sold legally in health food stores as a food supplement. Other types of oil are illegal.

CBD oil comes from the flowers of the cannabis plant and does not contain the psychoactive substance THC. It can be sold in the UK as a food supplement but not as a medicine. There is no evidence to support its use as a medicine.

Cannabis oil comes from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the cannabis plant. Cannabis oil often contains high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC. Cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.

Hemp oil comes from the seeds of a type of cannabis plant that doesn’t contain the main psychoactive ingredient THC. Hemp seed oil is used for various purposes including as a protein supplement for food, a wood varnish and an ingredient in soaps.

Why people with cancer use it

Cannabis has been used medicinally and recreationally for hundreds of years.

There has been a lot of interest into whether cannabinoids might be useful as a cancer treatment. The scientific research done so far has been laboratory research, with mixed results, so we do not know if cannabinoids can treat cancer in people.

Results have shown that different cannabinoids can:

  • cause cell death
  • block cell growth
  • stop the development of blood vessels – needed for tumours to grow
  • reduce inflammation
  • reduce the ability of cancers to spread

Scientists also discovered that cannabinoids can:

  • sometimes encourage cancer cells to grow
  • cause damage to blood vessels

Cannabinoids have helped with sickness and pain in some people.

Medical cannabis

This means a cannabis based product used to relieve symptoms.

Some cannabis based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. The following medicines are sometimes prescribed to help relieve symptoms.

Nabilone (Cesamet)

Nabilone is a drug developed from cannabis. It is licensed for treating severe sickness from chemotherapy that is not controlled by other anti sickness drugs. It is a capsule that you swallow whole.

Sativex (Nabiximols)

Sativex is a cannabis-based medicine. It is licensed in the UK for people with Multiple Sclerosis muscle spasticity that hasn’t improved with other treatments. Sativex is a liquid that you spray into your mouth.

Researchers are looking into Sativex as a treatment for cancer related symptoms.

How you have it

Cannabis products can be smoked, vaporized, ingested (eating or drinking), absorbed through the skin (in a patch) or as a cream or spray.

CBD oil comes as a liquid or in capsules.

Side effects

Prescription drugs such as Nabilone can cause side effects. This can include:

  • increased heart rate
  • blood pressure problems
  • drowsiness
  • mood changes
  • memory problems

Cannabis that contains high levels of THC can cause panic attacks, hallucinations and paranoia.

There are also many cannabis based products available online without a prescription. The quality of these products can vary. It is impossible to know what substances they might contain. They could potentially be harmful to your health and may be illegal.

Research into cannabinoids and cancer

We need more research to know if cannabis or the chemicals in it can treat cancer.

Clinical trials need to be done in large numbers where some patients have the drug and some don’t. Then you can compare how well the treatment works.

Many of the studies done so far have been small and in the laboratory. There have been a few studies involving people with cancer.

Cancer pain

There are trials looking at whether Sativex can help with cancer pain that has not responded to other painkillers.

The results of one trial showed that Sativex did not improve pain levels. You can read the results of the trial on our clinical trials website.

Cancer nausea and vomiting

A cannabis based medicine, Nabilone, is a treatment for nausea and vomiting.

A Cochrane review in 2015 looked at all the research available looking into cannabis based medicine as a treatment for nausea and sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. It reported that many of the studies were too small or not well run to be able to say how well these medicines work. They say that they may be useful if all other medicines are not working.

Other research

A drug called dexanabinol which is a man made form of a chemical similar to that found in cannabis has been trialled in a phase 1 trial. This is an early trial that tries to work out whether or not the drug works in humans, what the correct dose is and what the side effects might be. The results are not available yet. You can read about the trial on our clinical trials database.

Word of caution

Cannabis is a class B drug and illegal in the UK.

There are internet scams where people offer to sell cannabis preparations to people with cancer. There is no knowing what the ingredients are in these products and they could harm your health.
Some of these scammers trick cancer patients into buying ‘cannabis oil’ which they then never receive.

You could talk with your cancer specialist about the possibility of joining a clinical trial. Trials can give access to new drugs in a safe and monitored environment.

More information

The science blog on our website has more information about cannabis and cancer.

Cannabis is a plant and a class B drug. CBD oil is a chemical found in cannabis. Research is looking at the substances in cannabis to see if it might help treat cancer.

CBD Oil (The Legal Kind) and Skin Cancer

The state where I live, Indiana, isn’t known for being particularly progressive. CBD oil was a hot topic in legislation for a long time before our governor signed a bill in March 2018 making it legal to possess CBD oil, as long as it contained 0.3 percent THC or less. For some people, this law was extremely overdue to be passed.

What does CBD oil do?

Why the interest in getting a law passed making it legal to possess CBD oil? CBD oil has been claimed as being beneficial in helping with chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, and skin cancer. Yes, skin cancer!

CBD oil studies have shown that it can encourage abnormal cell death. It can also slow the growth and spread of cancer. Would it help me? I’ve had skin cancer for over 20 years. I know the apprehension of discovering a new, suspicious area on my skin. I know the frustration of yet another skin check at the dermatologist’s office where I have an area that has to be biopsied. So when it became legal to have non-THC CBD oil, I thought I would give it a try.

Experimenting with CBD oil

The first thing I learned is that there is a difference in CBD oils. My first purchase was from a healthy foods store. The store worker told me what she would recommend for me, and suggested that I should take it once a day. The label on the bottle indicated it was flavorless, but I have to tell you that I really struggled with ingesting that CBD oil. It wasn’t exactly flavorless; it tasted like I was drinking dirt. And it was thick.

After four weeks of once-daily ingestion, I couldn’t really tell a difference in how I felt from before I took it, but I noticed that my skin was looking clearer. However, trying to take the CBD oil was still causing difficulties, and I was ready to give up. It was that disgusting. I decided to instead put it directly on a couple of small areas of actinic keratosis on my face. I applied it at night before bed and covered with a bandage. Four nights later, I noticed that the areas were shrinking! This was encouraging.

Finding better quality CBD

Around that time, a CBD oil store opened near my home. I stopped by one day after work and asked if all CBD oils were as icky as the one I was taking. The salesperson told me what they sold was completely different. It was available in flavors, and I chose peppermint.

When I got home and tried it, I was amazed at the difference. What I purchased in the CBD oil store was completely clear, slightly flavored with peppermint (although no flavoring was necessary for me to be able to take it without gagging), and it didn’t have the consistency of motor oil. (You can see the difference in the photo below.) Lesson learned – buy good quality CBD oil, which makes it much easier to take.

Skin check time!

When it was time for my next dermatologist’s appointment for a skin check, I had been taking CBD oil for a little over two months. I told my dermatologist that I was taking it, and she said that it is an anti-inflammatory so it definitely couldn’t hurt to take it. And for the first time in many appointments, I had nothing that needed biopsied or was causing concern.

Coincidence? Possibly. CBD oil use? Possibly. It’s still early on, and even some of the information I read stated that more studies are needed on the use of CBD oil for skin cancer treatment, but so far it sounds promising!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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View Comments (8)

Do you still use the CBD for your skin cancer? Still say it’s helpful? Do u apply it externally to? I’d like to buy some off the THM website but don’t know which to buy to help with that? Any suggestions?

@annad Yes, CBD salves or serums.
Judy, SkinCancer.net Moderator

Hi, Anna! Thanks for your questions. I ran out of the CBD oil I was taking quite some time ago and for whatever reason haven’t yet been back to the store to get more. Oddly enough, though, once I stopped taking it I saw an increase in areas that needed treated or biopsied, so I’m planning on starting it again. I was taking 500 mg tincture orally, half a dropper twice a day. You may also want to look for a salve or serum to use on your skin. I’ve used the salve, which I found did help to shrink areas. If you’re ordering online, be sure to check the reviews because there can be a big difference in quality between brands. Where I live (Indiana), CBD oil products must be THC-free, so that is what is sold around here. Maybe the site you’re looking at has an option to chat with them or email them questions, and they could then suggest products that may work better for you. Hope this helps! Judy, SkinCancer.net Moderator

Thank you for your response! As far as the salve! You referring to a CBD Salve?

Hi Judy! Thank you for sharing your experience with CBD use. How many milligrams did you take take daily? Are you still? I am taking 10 mg a day and wondering if that is enough. I am waiting for decision dx results, but I suspect being proactive at keeping a recurrence away is best.

Hi, MaryRose! The kind I took (I’ve run out and need to get more) is 500 mg of CBD oil. I took a half dropper full twice a day (morning and night). I’ve derinitely seen a decline in the number of new skin cancer areas since I’ve started taking it!
Judy

Hi Judy.
Ok. That seems to be the standard amount. Thanks for taking the time to get back to me.

Is it possible to use CBD oil for skin cancer treatment? An advocate shares her experience trying out different CBD oils to improve her actinic keratosis.