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CBD and Cancer: Effects and Benefits

Cannabis and cancer

There has been a lot of interest in cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol and cannabidiol have been studied to see if they could have any role in the treatment of cancer.

Most of the scientific research has been done in a laboratory. Scientists have found that different cannabinoids can:

-cause a cell to die
-stop cells from dividing
-stop cells from developing new blood vessels.

But they have also found that cannabinoids can:
• damage important blood vessels
• in some situations, encourage cancer cells to grow.

Some studies have looked at whether using cannabis may increase the risk of developing cancer. These have produced different results. Some research has shown that using cannabis may protect against cancer. But other studies have shown an increased risk of cancer. It is still unclear whether using cannabis has any anti-cancer effects. But there is some evidence that the chemicals in cannabis might help with symptoms such as nausea and pain. For example, some drugs that have been developed using the chemicals in cannabis have been effective in treating sickness caused by chemotherapy, or improving a person’s appetite. But these studies have had mixed results when used in clinical trials. Because of the mixed results, the general feeling of experts is that there needs to be more research into the chemicals found in cannabis and their possible benefit.


A 2019 review focusing on pancreatic cancer suggests that CBD may help slow tumor growth, reduce tumor invasion, and induce tumor cell death. A 2014 study also mentions that CBD may have the potential to inhibit the spread of colorectal cancer cells.



Diets high in fat and cholesterol often can lead to obesity, a significant risk factor for cancer. When it comes to CBD and lowering cholesterol levels, the studies are divided. A study that looked at mice claimed that CBD increased cholesterol levels in wild-type mice but not in laboratory-bred mice. This was due to the already elevated blood cholesterol levels in the laboratory-bred mice, so overall, CBD was shown to increase cholesterol levels(8). However, because this study involved mice, more research is required to investigate CBD’s relationship with humans’ cholesterol levels. On the other hand, a 2011 study described the potential relationship between CBD use and cholesterol metabolism-related genes, suggesting that CBD treatment can regulate cholesterol homeostasis in microglial cells(9).


Blood Pressure

Persistent high blood pressure is often associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including lung, oral, and colon cancer. The research seems to be slightly more conclusive regarding lowering blood pressure. A 2017 study involving nine male volunteers were either administered 600mg of CBD or a placebo. Cardiovascular parameters were then monitored. The results showed that acute administration of CBD reduces resting blood pressure and blood pressure in response to stress stimulus(10). Because CBD is a vasodilator, it can cause relaxed arterial walls, allowing vasodilation in your blood vessels to occur. This allows blood to flow with more ease, subsequently lowering the pressure needed for circulation and reducing blood pressure(11).



Chronic inflammation is involved in cancer growth, as over time, cell damage can occur, subsequently affecting how cells divide and grow. This, in turn, may affect the presence of tumors and their growth. Alongside its effects on skin inflammation, CBD can act as an effective anti-inflammatory agent for arthritis, vascular inflammation, and nervous tissue inflammation. Cannabinoids, including CBD, have been seen to suppress inflammatory responses, which reduces symptoms of diseases involving inflammation. This is due to the properties of cannabinoids regulated through pathways involving suppression of cytokines in inflammatory sites and activating apoptosis in immune cells. Thus, CBD may be a beneficial preventative treatment for cancers that affect chronic inflammation within the body by inhibiting tumor growth(12).


Obesity is often linked to cancer due to several factors. Obese individuals often have increased insulin and insulin growth factors, which may help in the development of some cancers. These individuals also are more likely to have low-level inflammation, linked with an increased risk of many cancers. While obesity is mainly controlled by lifestyle factors, such as a healthy diet and sufficient exercise levels, many studies have investigated the relationship between obesity and cannabinoids, including CBD. CBD has been shown to affect weight loss and weight gain since one of CBD treatment’s main side effects is appetite change, both increased and decreased. Out of a cross-sectional study of CBD oil users, around 6.5% found that they had increased hunger as a side effect(13), while animal studies showed that CBD had influences on metabolism rate and reduced food intake. This was because of the interaction between CBD and CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and lymphoid tissue, due to the receptors playing crucial roles in food intake and body metabolism(14). Despite these findings, research is still relatively limited, with more human studies required before any definitive claims can be made.


CBD Oil as a Treatment for Cancer Side Effects

Perhaps one of the most challenging steps in caring for patients with cancer is treating the many side effects of the disease itself and subsequent treatments. Cancer treatment options are vast, but may include hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. These treatments are extremely aggressive to the body and often lead to a multitude of side effects, including insomnia, nausea, decreased appetite and chronic pain.


Insomnia can be triggered by certain medications, which can disturb your natural sleep-wake cycle. This can then lead to excessive grogginess and fatigue during the day, with increased feelings of anxiety, since insufficient sleep is often linked to poor mental health. CBD may help encourage the feeling of sleeplessness in individuals on cancer medications, therefore regulating their circadian rhythm. A large case study published in 2019 looked at whether CBD could reduce anxiety and improve sleep in 72 individuals. After a month of consuming one CBD capsule daily, around 67% of patients reported better sleep and 80% reported lowered anxiety levels(15). The main reason for this mechanism is the relationship between cannabinoids like CBD and how they can interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system regulates a range of processes, including sleep, mood, and memory. Several benefits can occur when this is activated, such as increased muscle relaxation and mood stabilization(16).



Appetite loss, poor appetite, and nausea are some of the most common side effects of cancer treatment. Long-term appetite complications can be detrimental to the patient, as they could lead to insufficient nutrient intake and fatigue due to muscle loss. Most studies that research the relationship between CBD and appetite have varying data, with some showing weight gain and others showing distinct weight loss(17). Despite the inconclusive research, one thing is for sure: these effects on hunger and appetite vary depending on the individual, their genetics, and the type of CBD product used. The relationship between CBD and nausea seems to be more straightforward. Research from 2011 suggests CBD and its interaction with the endocannabinoid system lead to the regulation of vomiting and nausea in both humans and animals(18).



Chronic and persistent pain can affect the quality of life of the cancer patient. Research on topical CBD products, such as CBD oil and its effects on pain management, has been promising, with many recent studies showing the role of CBD oil in reducing inflammation and general discomfort due to various health conditions, such as cancer.

A 2018 review looked at studies conducted from 1975 to 2018 to assess how CBD works in relieving chronic pain. A range of pain conditions was examined, including neuropathic and cancer pain. It was concluded that CBD was effective in overall pain management across the field, with little to no adverse side effects(19).


While studies have shown promising CBD results in lowering several key risk factors for cancer, such as inflammation and blood pressure, results are still inconclusive for cancer prevention. On the other hand, CBD as an aid for cancer treatment side effects has increased in popularity in recent years.



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