Can Cannabis Assist in Healing Skin Cancer?

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The British Journal of Pharmacology released a study in 2013 showing that cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabivarin (CBV)—all cannabinoids found in marijuana—were successful in “turning off” uncontrolled cell growth. CBD was found to be the most effective at targeting unwanted DNA activity that causes unrestricted cell growth, while CBG was found to be the second most beneficial. In addition, anecdotal evidence for the topical application of cannabis oil to help treat skin cancer lesions is plentiful. However, because there have been no clinical trials that have shown the efficacy of marijuana in treating skin cancer, there’s still a large gap in the current knowledge base of cannabis’s effects on skin cancer

Study Looks at Cannabis as a Complement to Traditional Skin Cancer Therapies

A study out of Australia could be just what’s needed to show that marijuana could have beneficial effects in skin cancer treatment, particularly in regard to melanoma. The University of Canberra in Australia has been working to develop a new treatment for skin cancer using medical grade cannabis out of Israel.

Specifically, the University of Canberra entered into a million-dollar deal with Cann Pharmaceutical Australia, a medical cannabis distributor, to develop an effective treatment for skin cancer. The project is being headed up by Professor Sudha Rao, an innovator in the field. Rao’s team was the first to identify the role played by certain enzymes in the spread of cancer stem cells.

The goal of the two-year project, which kicked off in June 2016, is to use cannabis strains—developed by Israel-based Cann Pharmaceutical Ltd.—as a complement to the traditional methods currently used to treat melanoma. The project has been fast-tracked and results could be available soon. Hopefully, this study will provide much-needed information into the efficacy of treating skin cancer with cannabis, when combined with other therapies.

Skin Cancer Is a Silent Killer

Melanoma is often known as the silent killer and is the most common and serious type of skin cancer. It develops when skin growth goes unimpaired. These growths often resemble a mole. Melanoma is often black or brown in colour and has asymmetrical borders. They evolve and change unlike typical moles. Almost 14,000 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017. Meanwhile, melanoma is the third most common form of cancer in Canadian women between the ages of 15–29.

It’s important to keep an eye on the moles you may have and get checked by a dermatologist once a year. These checks can help catch melanoma early and greatly reduce its chance of spreading and causing further harm.

Do you have a question about skin cancer? Go to HelloMD's Answers page where you can connect with a health practitioner or well-informed member of our community who will respond to your queries.