Breast cancer is a major and growing health issue among women. Invasive breast cancer is the most common type cancer affecting women worldwide, and the second-most-common type overall, according to the Susan G. Komen foundation. This year, an estimated 232,000 cases will be diagnosed just in the US. Early detection and successful treatment are crucial for survival. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women; one in ten will be affected by it at some point. There are a variety of highly successful chemical, radiological and surgical treatment options. But they’re not particularly pleasant. Moreover, some tumors are resistant and prone to relapse.
Numeorus Studies show that cannabinoid receptors are over-expressed in the tumor cells of certain cancers, such as cancers of the liver, lung, prostate and breast. Thus, researchers have been led to believe that the endocannabinoid system may be up-regulated in cancer in an innate biological effort to fight off this disease. In many states across the U.S. marijuana has begun to emerge as a potential medication, with a lot of patients and some doctors supporting its wider adoption based on miraculous-sounding anecdotal success stories. The drug is primarily used to treat chronic pain and nausea, but some doctors are prescribing marijuana to treat a host of other conditions, and delivery of the medication can come as a liquid – in tinctures or beverages; as a solid – in food, called “edibles”; or as a gas – through smoking.
Researchers have documented anti-cancer activity in cannabis since the 1990s. But the big breakthrough in breast cancer came in 2007, when Dr. Sean McAllister showed that CBD, the gentle, non-intoxicating sibling of THC, fights the most malignant forms of the disease by switching off the ID-1 gene. That’s a gene that is furiously active when we are embryos, but, once we’re fully constructed fetuses, it checks out to an early retirement. If the ID-1 gene should wake up later in life, however, which it occasionally does for mysterious reasons, its unwanted labor gifts us with malignant, invasive tumors.
Since the McAllister report, there have been a number of studies confirming and extending its findings.This 2012 review gives an excellent overview, if you’re interested and want to wade through the science. The authors (who themselves have been engaged in extensive cancer research at Madrid’s Computense University) conclude that cannabinoids that work on the CB1 and CB2 receptors (typically that means THC and CBD, respectively) have “anti-tumor activity” but do not harm healthy tissue—at least in test-tube experiments and mouse studies. This position has gained the imprimatur of the National Cancer Institute, which proclaims that the cannabinoid receptors “may be potential targets” in breast cancer.
If you’re interested in using medical marijuana to address some of the side effects of treatment for breast cancer and you live in a state where it’s available, be sure to speak with your doctor first. You’ll need a medical marijuana card, which requires a doctor’s evaluation, before you can access a dispensary. And if you do use it, be sure to communicate with your doctor about how best to do so.