Breast Cancer and Cannabis
October may be National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but for millions of American women and their loved ones, breast cancer awareness is a daily constant. Just this year alone, over 252,000 new cases will be diagnosed. That makes it all the more important that we take this yearly month of awareness to spread knowledge, encourage preventative care, and fight to make breast cancer history.
In women, breast cancer is the most common cancer among all races. And while awareness campaigns have made almost everyone aware of the breadth and scope of this terrible disease, many women don’t know when they are supposed to start screening, how to do a proper self-exam, or why it’s so important to diagnose breast cancer at an early stage.
Like every disease, breast cancer is easiest to fight when caught early. The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines:
- Women aged 40-44 should have the choice to start annual mammograms.
- Women aged 45-54 should have a mammogram every year.
- Women 55 or older should get mammograms every two years (or may continue every year).
There are numerous ways to treat this disease, including combinations of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. However, the side effects of some of these treatments can be painful, nauseating, and severely debilitating. Healthy cells get killed and patients are left weak. However, California researchers have found that cannabis, or more specifically, CBD, may halt progress of metastatic cancer by hindering the gene that causes the spread. "This is the first evidence that a cannabinoid can target the expression of an important breast cancer metastasis gene,” says cancer and cannabinoid expert Manuel Guzman. "This is a new way to treat a patient that is not toxic like chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is a new approach for metastatic cancer,” explains Sean D. McAllister, the lead researcher of the study.
Here’s how McAllister summarizes the study: “We targeted breast cancer cells that expressed high amounts of the protein Id-1. CBD is highly effective at turning off this specific gene that controls breast cancer metastasis. In addition to directly controlling cancer metastasis, turning off Id-1 has also lead to enhanced activity of first-line agents in preclinical models of cancer.”
ID-1 is the gene that causes the cancer to spread and when microbiologist Pierre Desprez collaborated with CBD researcher McAllister, they placed CBD and cells containing ID-1 in a petri dish and observed that the CBD affected the high-ID-1 cells by causing them to stop reproducing. Says Desprez, “We’ve found that Cannabidiol works with many kinds of aggressive cancers—brain, prostate—any kind in which these high levels of ID-1 are present.”
While this study is certainly important in terms of cancer research, the study was conducted on cultured cells and not actual women with breast cancer, so there is more work to be done to determine the true potential of CBD in treatment of metastatic cancer. But, so far, we have only have reason to be optimistic.
The more we’re looking into CBD as an alternative, non-toxic treatment for multiple ailments and diseases, the more positive information we continue to find.