Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells.
Cancer may occur anywhere in the body. In women, breast cancer is one of the most common. In men, it’s prostate cancer. Lung cancer and colorectal cancer affect both men and women in high numbers.
How Cannabis Can Help Relieve Symptoms
Cannabinoids are active chemicals in cannabis that cause drug-like effects throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. They are also known as phytocannabinoids. The main active cannabinoid in cannabis is delta-9-THC. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol, which may relieve pain and lower inflammation without causing the “high’ of delta-9-THC. Cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
Antitumor Activity – Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell deaths, blocking cell growth and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
A study in mice showed that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer and aid in its treatment.
A laboratory study of delta-9-THC in hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells showed that it damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in mouse models of liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects. Delta-9-THC has been shown to cause these effects by acting on molecules that may also be found in non-small cell lung cancer cells.
A laboratory study of cannabidiol in both estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells.
A laboratory study of cannabidiol in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, cannabidiol may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells.
Stimulating Appetite – Many animal studies have shown that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids stimulate appetite and can increase food intake.
Pain Relief – Cannabinoid receptors (molecules that bind cannabinoids) have been studied in the brain, spinal cord and nerve endings throughout the body to understand their roles in pain relief. Cannabinoids have been studied for anti-inflammatory effects that may play a role in pain relief. In 2009, researchers at Complutense University in Spain found that THC induced the death of cancer cells on the brain in a process known as “autophagy.”
THC and cannabis are promoted to relieve pain, control nausea and vomiting and stimulate appetite in people with cancer.