Hei Hei Health Centre
Caring for Your Community, Your Family and You
Cannabis Oil Not Wise for Skin Cancer
A patient recently asked if Cannabis oil might be used to cure a small skin cancer.
Never having been asked this before, a thorough review of the available literature was carried out, but sadly there have been absolutely no published clinical trials to date so it is impossible to recommend this treatment.
Cannabinoids do bind to receptors which are present in many cells and there is some evidence in highly controlled laboratory circumstances that cannabinoids may inhibit some cancers. Sadly, there is also evidence that it may actually accelerate growth in others. There have been no useful trials in living humans and animal trials are not conclusive. The link at the end of this article gives more information and is maintained by the Uk Cancer Society so may be seen as a trusted and valid reference.
The proposed mechanisms of action of cannabis oil are plausible but unfortunately that does not make it safe or effective.
A search of the internet lists many sites where people claim to have had skin cancers cured by cannabis oil. This effect may occur for one of the following reasons:
- It is possible that the cannabis oil actually removed the cancer (a small proportion probably do get better as a result of treatment)
- The act of rubbing itself can stimulate immune reactions which can deal with some skin cancers.
- Some skin cancers will naturally go away on their own.
- The skin cancer may actually have been something else entirely (misdiagnosis of these lesions is common)
It is important to note that some of the cancers being illustrated as treated with the oil are of a type that can spread and potentially kill the patient. We feel that using a totally untrialled medication like cannabis oil in such circumstances is very unwise.
Cannabis oil is of course illegal in New Zealand so as a treatment option it is not valid in any case. Hemp oil contains cannabinoids but the concentration is much lower.
The good news is that not all skin cancers need surgery – some may be suitable for treatment with cream, especially in older patients and in many cases, the treatment is fully funded.
If you think you may have a skin cancer, please make an appointment – our doctors are very good at skin diagnoses and can give you proper treatment advice from leaving harmless things alone through creams to surgical removal if required.
We feel that it is important to point out that there is also good evidence that smoking cannabis (as opposed to a topical application) significantly increases the risk of lung and head and neck cancer, whether or not it is used in combination with tobacco. Whilst there may in the future be a place for medicinal use of cannabinoids, at present the evidence very strongly suggests that in almost all cases the side effects outweigh the benefits.
Addendum September 2016:
We have been asked to provide evidence to support the statement that cannabis smoking causes cancer. The spectrum of carcinogens in cannabis smoke is similar to that in tobacco smoke. It is the inhaling of burned leaves that results in tar deposition in the lungs. Cannabis smoke is generally retained in the lungs for longer than tobacco smoke which may also explain how cannabis causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In a New Zealand study in 2008, it was found that cannabis smoking was associated with similar, or higher rate of lung cancer than tobacco smoking. Cannabis has also been associated with testicular cancer. Recent evidence casts doubt on the assertion that head and neck cancers are caused by cannabis smoking though it is important to note that the development of head and neck cancer is very slow and often occurs in association with other risk-factors. Some studies have shown an association and some have not. It remains our advice that the smoking of any substance is profoundly unwise and there is no reason to believe that cannabis is any safer than tobacco.
Hei Hei Health Centre Caring for Your Community, Your Family and You Cannabis Oil Not Wise for Skin Cancer A patient recently asked if Cannabis oil might be used to cure a small skin
CBD oil and cancer: 9 things to know
BY Cynthia DeMarco
CBD oil (cannabidiol) is everywhere these days. Once available only at novelty or vitamin shops, it’s now also at your local grocery store, pharmacy or even yoga studio.
It comes in many forms: oils that are dropped under the tongue, roll-ons that are applied to the skin and even solutions for vaping. Some producers extract CBD oil and add it into foods to create edible products.
But what is CBD oil exactly, and how does it affect cancer patients? Can it really treat — or even cure — cancer or relieve its symptoms? To separate fact from fiction, we spoke with our Kimberson Tanco, M.D. Here’s what he wants cancer patients to know.
What is CBD oil, and how does it differ from marijuana and hemp?
Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. Both contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the two most-common, known active ingredients.
The main difference is that hemp has far less THC than a typical marijuana plant. And unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive agent, so there’s less possibility that it will cause the same mental confusion, drowsiness or hallucinations that often come with THC.
Is there any truth to the claims that CBD oil can cure cancer?
Right now, no. There is no evidence that CBD oil can cure cancer.
What, if anything, can CBD oil do to alleviate the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment?
It’s hard to say if CBD oil can alleviate cancer symptoms or cancer treatment side effects, because the studies are pretty mixed and even fewer are standardized.
There have been reports that cannabinoids like THC and CBD may be helpful for nausea and vomiting and anorexia, as well as neuropathy, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Synthetic cannabinoids like dronabinol have been approved for use with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, but have not been shown to be superior to conventional anti-nausea medications.
Have any CBD-oil derived products been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer, its symptoms, or the side effects caused by its treatment?
Have any products using CBD-oil been approved by the FDA to treat anything?
Yes. Epidiolex. It was originally approved in 2018 for the treatment of two conditions, both related to epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. But aside from Epidiolex, no CBD product has been approved by the FDA for any other medical purpose.
What are the dangers of using CBD oil?
Quality, cleanliness and regulation are the biggest concerns.
All drugs and dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. But as long as CBD oil is not marketed as a medicine or a dietary supplement, producers can get around that policy. So right now, CBD oil is very unregulated. That means it’s hard to know how much CBD or THC is really in any given product. Certain hemp CBD products have been found to contain significantly less CBD or more THC than advertised.
In terms of purity, THC and CBD are both extracted from hemp and marijuana using essentially similar processes. But trace amounts of THC could still end up in CBD oil. And if the THC is at a high enough concentration, it could produce the psychoactive effects that THC is known for.
Second, if a lab produces both CBD and THC products, there can be cross-contamination — whether it’s through extraction, handling or packaging.
Third, the plant itself may have higher levels of THC than expected. This could be due to its environment, prolonged flowering periods or cross-contamination and pollination between male and female plants, resulting in offspring with higher THC content. This especially affects hemp plants, which should have less than 0.3% THC levels.
Finally, there have been some reports of people getting infections after using CBD and cannabis products. This is especially concerning for immunocompromised patients, who are already susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.
Studies on a certain CBD manufacturer showed its products were contaminated with a chemical known as 5F-ADB, which mimics THC. 5F-ADB is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as illegal, potentially addictive and with no accepted medical use.
Other sorts of substances have been found in CBD products, too, such as dextromethorphan, which is an ingredient in cough medicines. Heavy metals like lead and arsenic, pesticides and mold have also been found in CBD products.
Does CBD oil have any side effects?
CBD oil can adversely affect liver function. In fact, this is on the warning label for Epidiolex.
And in lab studies, CBD has been shown to inhibit certain enzymes responsible for the metabolism of drugs, such as CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. This can affect how drugs work and affect our bodies, either by reducing their efficiency or making them more dangerous. This includes chemotherapy and other medications.
This is very important for cancer patients to understand, as many people think CBD oil is not a medicine. They think of it more as a vitamin or a supplement, so they might not let their doctors know they’re using it. Patients might not realize it can be potentially harmful. So, it’s very important to tell your doctor if you’re using CBD oil.
Is CBD oil even legal?
CBD has a very complex legal status right now.
At the national level, any product of marijuana — including CBD — is still technically illegal when used medically. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp nationally, that’s only permitted if it’s not marketed for medical use or as a dietary supplement. CBD products intended for medical use should undergo an FDA review process.
State laws vary. In Texas, the Compassionate Use Act allows for the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions. Originally only for intractable epilepsy, the law was expanded this year to include cancer and certain neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
But the application of this law is pretty jumbled right now. So, while it may be legal to use CBD in a state like Colorado or Alaska, if an employer follows federal regulations, the standardization and quality of a CBD product matters. Because if there’s even a small percentage of THC in that product, then a drug test might come back positive. And this could result in legal issues for the user.
What’s the most important thing cancer patients should know about CBD oil?
There’s still a lot to learn. So always let your health care team know if you are using CBD oil. That way, we can make sure nothing interacts adversely with your cancer treatments or other medications.
Also, avoid products with health-related claims on their labels. The only product approved by the FDA for its medical value is Epidiolex.
Wondering whether you should use CBD oil to cope with cancer treatment and its side effects? We spoke with Kimberson Tanco, M.D., to separate fact from fiction.