Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. Every year, millions of women, and even a few men, are diagnosed with it all over the world. Fortunately, there are dozens of different ways to treat it, meaning that most diagnoses are not a death sentence. But the side effects of cancer treatment can sometimes be so difficult that medical experts desperately seek more “effective, targeted, and non-toxic therapies”. Recent findings show that the molecule CBD could be an alternative or complement to some forms of breast cancer treatment. Here’s what you need to know about the research behind these claims.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a condition that affects the reproduction of breast cells. Our cells are constantly dividing and multiplying. But they are also dying at around the same rate. This means that our cells are constantly being changed over, which keeps us healthy and well.
But when a woman gets breast cancer, some cells in her breast start multiplying faster without dying. This is caused by a genetic mutation. The fast-growing cells eventually form a tumor and threaten her life.
Breast cancer is particularly dangerous because it can easily spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system.
How does breast cancer start?
Breast cancer starts when a single cell begins to reproduce at an unusual speed. This cell starts to multiply, forming a lump of cells carrying the same genetic mutation. Over time, the lump grows bigger and cancerous cells threaten to spread to other parts of the body. Most forms of breast cancer originate in the milk ducts or in the lobules.
Some people are naturally predisposed to getting breast cancer. The gene mutation at the origin of the cancer is passed down through your parents, which explains why it seems to run in certain families.
However, people can get breast cancer without a known predisposition, and those with a predisposition may never develop breast cancer.
Scientists believe this is because there are other factors that trigger the onset of breast cancer. For example, hormonal levels, exposure to radiation and lifestyle can all play a role. Women who are obese, drink alcohol or have their first child past the age of 30 are also more likely to get breast cancer.
What are the main signs of breast cancer?
The only way to be sure that you have breast cancer is to take a mammogram. But even before that, there are a few signs that could indicate the onset of a tumor.
The most obvious one is feeling a new lump in your breast, which will usually feel different from the rest of your breast tissue. You may also feel a lump or swelling under your arm. Pain in your breast is also a warning sign.
In the early stages, the skin on the breast may also change. It may become red, irritated, peel and flake.
If you notice any of these signs, you need to consult a doctor straight away so that you can get tested for breast cancer. But don’t panic right away, since it’s also possible to feel some of these symptoms without having cancerous growth.
How is breast cancer treated?
Breast cancer starts with just a few cancerous cells and can eventually spread to the rest of the body. At each stage of breast cancer progression, different forms of treatment are appropriate.
The most common form of treatment is surgery. A surgeon can remove the tumor and surrounding tissue if the cancer is still in its early stage. At a more advanced stage, a mastectomy may be required, which is when the entire breast is removed. There are also different forms of surgery that can remove lymph nodes to prevent the tumor from spreading.
Surgery is frequently combined with radiation therapy, chemotherapy or both. Radiation therapy uses radiation beams to kill cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that kills cancerous cells from the inside.
Some forms of breast cancer are sensitive to hormones. In that case, hormone therapy can be used to block the production of hormones, slowing down the growth of the tumor.
These are the most common forms of treatment for breast cancer. However, many more exist, though they may still be in the early stages of development. One of them is treatment with cannabinoids. We already know that THC can slow down the growth of tumors. And today, scientists are also investigating the potential of CBD: a non-psychoactive cannabis molecule. This is what the second part of our article will focus on.
What is CBD?
CBD is a molecule found in the cannabis plant. It belongs to a class of compounds called cannabinoids. These molecules are found in plants like cannabis (phytocannabinoids) but are also naturally produced by our bodies (endocannabinoids).
When we consume phytocannabinoids, they start acting a lot like endocannabinoids in our bodies. This gives them the ability to send signals to the whole body, regulating things like pain, inflammation, anxiety and even tumor growth.
In the case of CBD, it binds with receptors of the endocannabinoid system (CB1 and CB2) as well as with other receptors (of the endovanilloid system, for example). This transmits information to different parts of the body and reduces symptoms like high blood pressure, chronic pain, depression and more. CBD has been used to fight a number of conditions, including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, metabolic syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. And it’s also showing a lot of potential in treating different forms of cancer.
How does CBD work against breast cancer?
So how does CBD affect cancerous growth in the breast? And what does this mean for people with breast cancer? Let’s have a look at what the research says.
CBD inhibits cell proliferation
In 2010, a group of scientists found that CBD could slow down the proliferation of breast cancer cells. They found that the molecule activated certain pathways, reducing tumor mass and preventing metastasis (the spread of cancerous growth to other regions of the body).
This is a significant finding because metastasis is one of the things that make breast cancer so dangerous. Because of their proximity to lymph nodes and other organs, cancerous breast cancer cells can spread to the lungs and other vital organs. This 2010 study found that CBD prevented metastasis of breast cancer to the lungs in a mouse model.
Of course, we would still need some clinical trials on women with breast cancer to establish whether CBD is a valuable treatment for breast cancer. But the studies we have so far are already very promising.
CBD kills cancerous cells (and doesn’t attack non-cancerous cells)
In a 2006 study, scientists examined the effects of different cannabinoids on breast cancer cells. They found that of all the cannabinoids, CBD had the greatest potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
In a mouse model of breast cancer, CBD destroyed cancerous cells, but only a small percentage of non-cancerous cells. The scientists behind the experiment suggested this was due to CBD’s ability to induce apoptosis. Apoptosis means cell death. It may not sound like a good thing, but in the case of cancer, cell death is exactly what you want! Cancerous cells are dangerous because they keep multiplying without dying. So by encouraging the death of mutant cells, CBD may be able to slow down the progression of tumors, or even shrink them.
In that regard, CBD can be considered less toxic than chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is meant to kill primarily cancer cells, but it attacks healthy cells as well, causing a whole array of side effects. In fact, one of the main priorities of breast cancer research today is finding viable alternatives to chemotherapy. As a non-toxic substance that seems to be better at targeting only cancerous cells, CBD is a potential alternative.
CBD could help with the side effects of chemotherapy
Despite all its side effects, chemotherapy is still widely used to this date because of its effectiveness. Before we have a number of successful clinical trials, it is unlikely that CBD will replace chemotherapy as a treatment for breast cancer. However, it could be used alongside chemotherapy. As well as slowing down tumor growth and killing off cancerous cells, CBD can be used to mitigate some of the most painful side effects of chemotherapy.
CBD reduces nausea
Many breast cancer patients who have gone through chemotherapy say that the most debilitating side-effect of chemotherapy isn’t hair loss or fatigue, but nausea: a consistent feeling of sickness that prevents them from enjoying food, or forgetting about the heavy treatment that they are undergoing.
Thankfully, CBD shows good potential in reducing nausea. Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in regulating feelings of sickness, nausea and vomiting. By regulating the effects of that system, CBD has the potential to alleviate nausea, or even stop it completely.
CBD supports better mental health
As well as having positive effects on the body, CBD also has many positive effects on the mind. In particular, it has the potential to lift and regulate your mood, as well as relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
This could be of great help to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Not only are mood changes one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy, but the fight against breast cancer itself can cause a lot of anxiety.
By helping women feel more balanced, less anxious and less depressed, CBD has the potential to make it easier to undergo chemotherapy.
Assessing the risks of CBD
But is CBD safe to take when you have breast cancer? This is one of the most commonly asked questions on the topic. Although CBD is a natural supplement rather than a synthetic drug, it affects the working of your whole body. This means it can interfere with other drugs.
Does CBD oil interfere with tamoxifen?
Tamoxifen is a drug used to regulate estrogen receptors. It is used in the treatment of some forms of breast cancer that respond to hormones. According to some studies, cannabinoids like CBD could interfere with the way that it works. It appears that tamoxifen has an effect on cannabinoid receptors, like CBD and THC. This means that CBD could potentially make the effects of tamoxifen either stronger or weaker.
So far, we don’t know enough about the interaction of CBD and tamoxifen to know how they affect one another. But if you’ve been prescribed tamoxifen to treat breast cancer, make sure to consult with your physician before trying out CBD—it may not be safe for you!
Does CBD oil increase estrogen?
One of the worries of women with breast cancer is that a substance like CBD could affect their hormone levels. This is a serious concern: the more estrogen your body produces, the worse your cancer could get.
So far, there have been no studies showing that CBD increases estrogen levels. The endocannabinoid system does have an effect on hormonal levels: it is partially responsible for regulating them. This means that taking CBD could help to bring estrogen levels back to a normal level. However, there are no studies to support that hypothesis either.
If you have a type of breast cancer that is responsive to hormones, make sure to consult with your physician before you try CBD.
Side-effects of CBD
CBD has very few side effects, and all of them are mild. A 2017 review of studies on CBD found that it had no dangerous side effects, only rarely creating lethargy, changes in appetite or digestion issues. So if you want to take CBD for your breast cancer, you don’t have to worry about experiencing painful side effects.
What you do have to worry about is potential drug interaction. CBD may interact with many different drugs, including hormonal therapy and any drug carrying a grapefruit warning. So if you’ve been prescribed any form of treatment for breast cancer, you should consult a physician before taking any amount of CBD. They will be able to tell you whether it has the potential to interact with your current treatment.
Is CBD legal?
CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC are now legal in most Western countries. In the United States, they are legal on a federal level but may be prohibited by certain states. CBD products are not approved by the FDA.
Taking CBD for breast cancer: products and dosages
Breast cancer patients who want to try out CBD are swarmed with dozens of products. CBD capsules, CBD vapes, CBD gummies, CBD patches… Which ones should you choose?
As a cancer patient, you’ve probably been advised to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which means avoiding processed foods, unnecessary chemicals, pollutants and more. This also means you should choose CBD products that are as pure as possible. We would recommend CBD oil tinctures that only contain CBD and a natural carrier oil like hemp oil. Only try out CBD edibles like gummies or cookies if they don’t contain any harmful additives. For more information on choosing CBD products that are good for you, you can consult our guide to quality CBD products here.
Then there is the question of what dose to take. One of the questions we hear the most often is, “How much CBD does a cancer patient need?” Unfortunately, there is no universal answer. How much CBD you need will depend on your size, height, weight, condition and a number of other factors. Moreover, some people develop side effects like lethargy from large amounts of CBD, while others don’t. So it usually takes a bit of trial and error to find a dose that works for you.
We recommend you consult with a physician who is experienced in the field of medical cannabis in order to find a dosage that works for you. They will also be able to let you know whether there are any reasons why you shouldn’t take CBD, such as another drug you may be taking.
CBD shows impressive potential in the treatment of breast cancer. As a few studies show, it could be used to shrink tumors, stop cell proliferation, and kill cancerous cells without attacking healthy cells. As a safe substance that only has few side effects, it’s one of the most harmless potential alternatives to common breast cancer treatment. However, we are still lacking clinical studies on the topic. Moreover, CBD may interact with a few of the drugs commonly prescribed to breast cancer patients. For that reason, it’s essential to consult with a health professional before trying out CBD to treat your breast tumor.
Breast cancer facts and figures
Benefits of CBD for breast cancer
2010 study on the benefits of CBD against breast cancer cell proliferation and metastasis
2006 study on the effects of CBD and other cannabinoids on human breast cancer tumors
CBD for nausea
2011 study on the effects of CBD oil on nausea and vomiting
CBD for mental health
2018 review of the effects of CBD on physical and mental health conditions
2019 study on CBD for anxiety and sleep
2019 study on the effects of CBD for stress reduction
2014 study on the antidepressant effects of CBD
Side-effects and drug interactions of CBD
2016 study on the effects of tamoxifen on cannabinoid receptors
2017 study on the safety and side effects of CBD
2017 review of potential interactions between cannabinoids and synthetic drugs
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Charlotte’s Web is a big name in the world of CBD. They’re known for their high-quality CBD products that come in some very high strengths. This particular “max strength” tincture contains an astonishing 6,000mg of CBD in a 100mL bottle, making it the strongest product we’ve ever seen. Even if you’re someone who uses a lot of CBD everyday, this is sure to last you a very long time.
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One of the things which we really like about buying CBDistillery online is the fact that they have simple products. For example, this CBD oil 1000mg full spectrum only contains MCT coconut oil and full spectrum CBD extract. This makes it incredibly versatile: it can be taken straight, mixed together with food, and even applied to the skin. Each drop of oil brings you roughly 33mg of CBD, which is an average daily dose for those who suffer from chronic pain or anxiety.
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