CBD and Breast Cancer: Does It Help?
If you or your close ones suffer from breast cancer and are treated for it, you’ve probably experienced some side effects like fatigue, nausea, pain, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite.
Recently, the use of CBD for cancers, including breast cancer, has become popular among people interested in alternative and complementary treatments. Truth be told, CBD is virtually everywhere, not only in dispensaries and pharmacies but also in wellness centers, gas stations, and online stores.
CBD is extracted from hemp plants. Unlike THC, it’s non-intoxicating, so you can experience the health benefits of cannabis without getting high. According to the WHO, CBD is safe and well-tolerated by humans, even in high doses.
Its anti-cancer mechanism involves the modulation of programmed cell death (apoptosis) and reduced cancer cell proliferation.
Although there are no clinical studies that would directly examine the efficacy of CBD on larger groups of women with breast cancer, its health benefits can help you with other areas associated with this disease.
Let’s explore the use of CBD for breast cancer.
Can CBD Oil Help With Breast Cancer?
CBD interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids that regulate your daily physiological functions, such as mood, memory, pain, sleep, inflammation, appetite, fertility, and more.
CBD modulates the activity of the ECS by indirectly enhancing the functioning of cannabinoid receptors. It prompts the production of more endocannabinoids when your body needs them — and slows their breakdown by inhibiting the FAAH enzyme that metabolizes them.
So, by influencing the ECS, CBD can reduce the side effects of conventional breast cancer treatment, like pain, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia.
But can you use CBD oil to treat breast cancer?
There is no clinical evidence for that. However, some animal studies and preclinical research on human models show that CBD can exert certain actions that make it a potential anti-cancer agent.
CBD can trigger the programmed death of cancer cells and slow down their proliferation, potentially reducing tumor growth and stopping cancer from spreading.
Here’s what science says about the benefits of CBD for breast cancer.
Studies On CBD Oil and Cancer
Ongoing research on CBD oil and cancer is primarily targeted at two things: the ability of CBD to slow or even stop cancer growth and its influence on the side effects of cancer and conventional cancer treatment.
Cannabinoids can act as anti-inflammatory agents, with possible anti-cancer effects on the skin. Skin inflammation often leads to an increased risk of cancer caused by excess levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines that attack healthy cells and increase the concentrations of malignant cells in the body.
Studies have shown that CBD can inhibit the release of cytokines, proteases, and chemokines — all of which are involved in the invasion and survival of skin cancer cells (1).
Cannabinoids like CBD also act as protective agents in neuroinflammatory conditions, making them a viable choice for adjunctive skin cancer treatment (2).
In a 2014 study, the research team looked at experimental models of colon cancer in vivo and suggested that CBD may block the proliferation of colorectal cancer cells without affecting healthy cells (3).
A 2019 study provided similar results, showing that CBD can induce apoptosis by modulating various anti-and pro-apoptotic processes in proteins, decreasing overall tumor size (4).
In women, breast cancer is the leading cause of death and the most prevalent type of cancer worldwide. CBD has been shown to have a positive effect on hormone-sensitive breast cancer cells by acting on receptor-dependent and independent invasion and proliferation. Both these parameters are crucial indicators of cancer growth (5).
In 2011, researchers also demonstrated CBD’s role in the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This process is important for breast cancer because ROS inhibition results in compromised autophagy and apoptosis, meaning that cancer cells can grow and spread freely (6).
Another type of cancer where CBD oil could help is lung cancer. 90% of lung cancers come from tobacco smoking, amongst other factors, such as air pollution, radiation, or exposure to chemical agents.
According to a recent study, the expression levels of cannabinoid receptors could be a marker of survival in patients with aggressive lung cancer. CBD was also able to block the production of epidermal growth factor receptors in lung cancer cell lines (7).
Can You Use CBD Oil for Breast Cancer Prevention?
Cancer prevention is crucial for reducing mortality rates in the modern population. It is a well-known fact that cancer growth is highly influenced by lifestyle choices, such as stress management, physical activity levels, diet, and supplementation.
Once the tumor starts to grow and spread, it can be uncontrollable and difficult to treat. The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier it is to eliminate it by chemotherapy or radiation.
Below we explain how CBD helps reduce certain risk factors for cancer development.
CBD and Cholesterol
Too high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can lead to obesity, a significant risk factor for cancer. The studies are divided when it comes to CBD and lowering LDL levels.
One study that examined mice claimed that CBD increased cholesterol blood concentrations in wild-type mice but not in laboratory-bred mice. This could happen due to the already elevated blood cholesterols in the laboratory-bred mice, so overall, CBD was shown to increase cholesterol levels. However, no study has yet investigated this relationship in humans (8).
On the other hand, researchers from a 2011 study described the potential interaction between CBD and cholesterol metabolism-related genes, suggesting that CBD can be used in the treatment of abnormal cholesterol levels in microglial cells (9).
CBD and Blood Pressure
Hypertension is often associated with an increased risk of oral, lung, and colon cancers. Studies seem to be more conclusive when it comes to the effects of CBD on blood pressure.
A study conducted in 2017 analyzed the effects of 600 mg of CBD on healthy male volunteers and concluded that the dose was more effective in lowering the blood pressure of the subjects than the placebo (10).
Due to its vasodilating properties, CBD can cause arterial walls to relax, allowing it to broaden up your blood vessels. This facilitates better blood flow, subsequently reducing blood pressure.
CBD and Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is engaged in cancer growth. Over time, damaged cells affect the way other cells divide and grow. This can lead to the presence of tumors and their proliferation.
On top of reducing inflammation in the skin, CBD also has anti-inflammatory effects on arthritis, vascular inflammation, and neuroinflammation.
Cannabinoids have been highlighted as novel anti-inflammatory drugs, reducing symptoms of diseases involving inflammation. Therefore, CBD may be a viable preventative treatment for cancers that stem from chronic inflammation within the body by stopping tumor growth.
CBD and Obesity
Obesity is among the most common and preventable risk factors for cancer. Obese people tend to have higher fasting insulin levels and are more likely to develop low-grade inflammation, which has been associated with several types of cancers.
Although obesity is mainly driven by lifestyle choices, many studies have analyzed the link between obesity and cannabinoids, including CBD.
CBD has been shown to affect both weight loss and weight gain — these effects were attributed to CBD’s ability to cause appetite fluctuation.
One cross-sectional study of CBD users has found that around 6.5% have experienced increased appetite after taking CBD (11), while studies on animal models indicate that CBD reduces food intake (12).
CBD appears to play a key role in food intake and body metabolism, but the effects appear to be driven by many individual factors. Some studies have also shown that CBD promotes a process called fat browning, which causes white lipids to convert into brown lipids — their metabolically more active version.
How Can CBD Help With the Side Effects of Cancer Treatments?
One of the most difficult stages a breast cancer patient can deal with is the numerous side effects of the disease and its treatments. There are many treatment options for cancer, including immunotherapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation.
These treatments take a heavy toll on the body and often result in a myriad of crippling side effects, such as chronic pain, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
Women with breast cancer, especially those that underwent chemotherapy, tend to struggle with insomnia. CBD oil may help encourage the feeling of sleepiness in people who take cancer medications, regulating their sleep-wake cycle.
In a 2019 large case study, CBD was shown to improve sleep in 72 patients. After a month of taking one CBD capsule per day, around 67% of patients reported better sleep quality, and 80% experienced less anxiety (13).
Several benefits can occur when you take CBD before sleep, including muscle relaxation, mood stabilization, and reduced stream of thoughts.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting are some of the most common adverse reactions to cancer treatment. Long-term appetite deprivation can have a detrimental effect on the patient, as it could trigger malnutrition and fatigue caused by muscle loss.
Again, studies on the relationship between CBD and appetite have conflicting results, with some showing weight loss and others indicating slight weight gain. On the other hand, the results regarding its effects on nausea are more conclusive. CBD is engaged in the regulation of nausea and vomiting in both animals and humans (14).
Chronic pain can negatively impact your daily functioning. The research on CBD oil use for pain suggests that CBD oil can reduce not only inflammation but also mitigate pain signals that are sent from the nerve cells to the brain.
As a result, CBD can reduce overall discomfort in women with breast cancer. A 2018 review analyzed studies from 1975 to 2018 to evaluate how CBD works to ease chronic pain. A range of pain conditions was investigated, including neuropathy and cancer pain (15).
The authors concluded that CBD was effective in overall pain management, with little to no adverse reactions.
Key Takeaways on CBD Oil and Breast Cancer
To wrap it up, while the research on the anti-cancer properties of CBD is promising, it’s worth noting that studies are still in the early stages. Cancer is a very complex disease with a wide range of risk factors, symptoms, and side effects that can occur after diagnosis and during treatment.
The growth of cancerous cells within the body also involves many physiological processes, including cell death, division, and metabolism.
CBD can lower several key risk factors for cancer, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and chronic inflammation; it can also treat the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, there are no clinical studies that would look at its direct effect on breast cancer in a larger group of women.
Because the field is still developing, we can soon expect such trials. For now, if you’re considering adding CBD oil to your anti-cancer routine, consult the idea with a holistic doctor that has some experience with CBD use and cannabis in general.
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