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Can CBD Oil Benefit Breast Cancer Patients?

In light of Olivia Newton John’s cancer making a return, mainstream media is finally focusing on a natural healing method we know all too well: CBD oil. The Australian singer and actress — best known for her iconic role as the Danny Zuko-loving Sandy in Grease — has been turning to marijuana-derived cannabis oil as part of her cancer treatment, and the world wants to know more.

CBD is still in the early days of clinical research in the United States (thanks, government), but there’s already proof in the naturopathic pudding: this stuff works. The World Health Organization even issued a report in 2017 stating that CBD may have antitumor effects. Specifically, the report stated “CBD may have therapeutic benefits,” for a list of ailments, including cancer: “Antiproliferative and anti-invasive actions in a large range of cancer types; induction of autophagy-mediated cancer cell death; chemopreventive effects.”

When it comes to breast cancer specifically, there have been accounts of anecdotal evidence that albeit subjective, are quite powerful. Taria Camerino, a well-known culinary director, and acclaimed pastry chef shared an in-depth story of her fight against breast cancer with Bon Appetit. She described her journey with cancer, creating CBD chocolate for herself, and eventually turning it into a business. Today, her cancer is in remission, and what started as an “experiment” in her words became a line of tinctures and ganaches to help cancer patients the world over.

Incredible, yes — but again, anecdotal. So while we eagerly await the concrete, conclusive, clinical trials to prove all of this once and for all, here’s a look at what science has said so far on the matter of cannabis for carcinoma of the breast tissues.

  • CBD inhibited breast cancer tumor growth in rats. “Both cannabidiol and the cannabidiol-rich extract inhibited the growth of xenograft tumors,” (read: the tumors were put into the rats) according to a 2006 study in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
  • It may work similarly to chemo when it comes to tumors. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics reported in 2011 that their “study revealed an intricate interplay between apoptosis and autophagy in CBD-treated breast cancer cells and highlighted the value of continued investigation into the potential use of CBD as an antineoplastic agent.” In plain English, it looks like the CBD is working (on breast cancer specifically), let’s keep studying it to make sure.
  • It could control aggressive tumors. In August of 2011, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment published a study that said, in effect, CBD can control aggressive breast cancer cells. Again, this was a study on rats, but the goal was to find “therapeutic interventions for aggressive and metastatic breast cancers,” since there are limited options available, and they found CBD to be an “effective, targeted, and non-toxic” therapy. A 2017 study in the Journal of Natural Medicines found similar results with “highly aggressive breast cancer,” but suggested further research.
  • CBD might be the first nontoxic breast cancer treatment. Another study from Molecular Cancer Therapeutics (this one was from 2007) reported that “CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness.”
  • CBDA (the precursor to CBD) was proven to inhibit tumors. A Japanese study from 2014 concluded that “CBDA is an inhibitor of highly aggressive human breast cancer cell migration.”

In light of all these positive findings, we can hope that human clinical trials will be moving forward in the US in the near future. But because CBD is nontoxic and rarely has side effects, it can’t hurt to try. However, there is one consideration: CBD can potentially interfere with chemotherapy treatment, thanks to a liver enzyme called cytochrome p450. CBD occupies this enzyme while it is metabolized by the liver, which can result in improper amounts of chemotherapy getting into the body. If you’re currently undergoing chemo, it’s imperative that you discuss your CBD options with an oncologist to determine the best course of action.

And as for Olivia Newton John: her husband John Easterling is busy crafting her marijuana-derived CBD tinctures from the plants he grows on their Santa Barbara ranch. After going into remission following her 1992 breast cancer diagnosis, cancer returned again just earlier this year. She’s taking a natural approach for pain management and tumor downregulation, and CBD is at the forefront of that plan.

Danny Zuko-loving Sandy in Grease — has been turning to marijuana-derived cannabis oil as part of her cancer treatment, and the world wants to know more.

Can cannabis oil stop my breast cancer returning?

Health claims surrounding cannabis products frequently hit the news. But is there any evidence that they could reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back?

Breast Cancer Care’s Helpline often gets calls from people who are worried about their breast cancer returning after treatment, and who want to know if they can do anything to help.

Medical cannabis and cannabis oils have been in the news a lot recently. While these stories haven’t been about cancer, it’s clear some people believe cannabis could have anti-cancer properties.

However, despite ongoing research in this area, there’s no reliable evidence that any type of cannabis is an effective treatment for cancer.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabis contains ingredients called cannabinoids. Two of these are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

THC is the chemical responsible for most of the effects that cannabis has on the mind or behaviour. CBD doesn’t cause these effects.

Some people think that cannabinoids like CBD may have health benefits.

Can cannabinoids be used to treat cancer?

According to Cancer Research UK: ‘Many hundreds of scientific papers looking at cannabinoids and cancer have been published, but these studies simply haven’t found enough robust scientific evidence to prove that these can safely and effectively treat cancer.’

The problem is that almost all these studies have been carried out either on cancer cells in the laboratory or on animals. And what works in the laboratory or in animals doesn’t necessarily have the same effect in the human body.

The chemicals used in these studies are also very different to the cannabis oils and products available to buy.

While a quick Google search will uncover examples of people who claim to have treated their cancer using cannabis oil, it’s not possible to draw conclusions from individual stories like these.

In order to properly assess the effects of cannabinoids on cancer, large clinical trials are necessary.

Is cannabis oil illegal?

According to the NHS website: ‘Many cannabis-based products are available to buy online, but their quality and content is not known. They may be illegal and potentially dangerous.’

Some cannabis-based products, such as hemp oil, can be bought legally as supplements from health food stores. However, there’s no guarantee that these products have any health benefits.

As the NHS website states: ‘Health stores sell certain types of ‘pure CBD’. However, there’s no guarantee these products will be of good quality. And they tend to only contain very small amounts of CBD, so it’s not clear what effect they would have.’

A very small number of people may get medical cannabis on prescription, for example if they have a severe form of epilepsy, or vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy. However, this likely to be the case only if other treatments have been tried first.

Dealing with worries about recurrence

Most people worry about breast cancer coming back (recurrence). These worries are normal, and the fear and anxiety usually lessens with time.

Knowing how to continue to be breast and body aware after treatment and the symptoms you should report can help manage your feelings of uncertainty.

The treatment you received will have been given to reduce the risk of the breast cancer coming back at its original site or elsewhere in the body.

Everyone copes with worries about recurrence in their own way, and there are no easy answers. But keeping quiet about them is probably not the best approach.

Breast Cancer Care’s Forum lets you share your worries with other people in a similar situation to you.

You can also read our tips on coping with anxiety and find suggestions in BECCA, our free app that helps you move forward after breast cancer treatment.

Health claims surrounding cannabis products frequently hit the news. But is there any evidence that they could reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back? ]]>