Cannabis has been touted by many as a “miracle” substance which has been used to help treat many conditions such as arthritis, anxiety, aswell as chronic pain and ADHD. Research has been expanding to try and identify other potential uses for cannabis. One of these areas which is attracting particular interest is in the area of skin cancer – more specifically melanoma. Whilst there has been limited trials with humans, there has been research conducted in animals which suggests that the cannabinoids found in cannabis can have a positive effect on treating skin cancer.
What Exactly is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be acquired if a person is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the heat of the sun, or through prolonged and extensive use of tanning beds. It is thought that when a person is exposed to ultraviolet rays, the DNA in the person’s cells tends to mutate, which causes permanent damage. Melanoma tends to form in the areas where the most exposure to UV rays takes place, but sometimes they can be found on other more hidden areas such as on the soles of the feet, but this varies from person to person. Melanoma is quite a dangerous type of cancer as it can often metastasize and spread to other areas of the body.
What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?
It is thought that the average individual has many moles – often quantified between 10 and 45 depending on the person. A mole is often circular and is about the size of a pea. Cancerous moles are quite difficult compared to normal moles that appear on the human body. Here’s what to look out for:
- Non-circular moles which are asymmetrical in shape
- Scalloped borders that are part of the mole
- If the mole is darker in some areas compared to others
- Moles which are 0.25 inches in diameter or more
Can Cannabis Help Treat Melanoma?
There has been studies that have taken place which have pointed to the potential benefits cannabis can provide a sufferer of Melanoma. One such research study which was released in the highly respected Journal of Investigative Dermatology, focused on mice who had melanoma cells. These mice were treated using a combination of THC and CBD, which form part of cannabis. It was found that this unique pairing of THC and CBD created an environment in which the melanoma cells were killed, which certainly made the researchers excited. The THC and CBD were able to do this by facilitating autophagy – which is the process of cell death.
When “cell suicide” takes place, the cell breaks down into different parts. These fragments are then “cleaned up” by other cells which are released from the immune system.
These findings need to be tested and replicated in humans in order to develop and build on the research taken place in mice. Let’s hope these results can be replicated in humans and cannabis can be used for skin cancer as a viable treatment option in the future.