CBD's effects on cancer

Research Studies: CBD’s Effects On Cancer

What are CBD’s effects on cancer? Millions of people are diagnosed with some type of cancer each year. But, could CBD help them?

Cancer refers to a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. And if it’s not controlled, cancer can lead to death. Men, women, and children, even pets can all develop cancer. Researchers are working to determine CBD’s effects on cancer, potentially giving new hope to those diagnosed with cancer.

Several factors that cause cancer have been identified, such as lifestyle, diet, and genetics. And addressing the factors that lead to developing the disease could prevent many cancers.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a phytocannabinoid from the Cannabis Sativa plant. There have been many studies undertaken investigating CBD’s effects on cancer. And CBD is being studied for its therapeutic benefits in treating a variety of illnesses. But researchers are especially hopeful that the compound can help cancer patients survive the life-threatening condition.

Understanding Cancer

Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect many different organs and systems in the body. But a defining feature of most cancers is its ability to metastasize, which is a major cause of death from cancer. Metastases occur when abnormal cells grow beyond the initial tumor and spread to other areas of the body.

Healthy cells mutate and transform into cancerous cells in a multistage process. And the mutation is a result of the interaction between an individual’s genetic factors and three types of potential carcinogens.

  1. Physical Carcinogens – UV, ionizing radiation, etc.
  2. Chemical Carcinogens – Asbestos, tobacco smoke, etc.
  3. Biological Carcinogens – Virus, bacteria, infection, etc.

Causes of Cancer

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.8 million deaths in 2015 alone. [1] And about 1,670 Americans are expected to die from cancer each day in 2018. [2] The most common causes of cancer deaths in 2015 came from:

  • Lung cancer (1.69 million)
  • Liver cancer (788,000)
  • Colorectal cancer (774,000)
  • Stomach cancer (754,000)
  • Breast cancer (571,000)

Tobacco use alone is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer-related deaths globally. [2]

Addressing, modifying, or removing the many risk factors that lead to developing cancer can help avoid the disease. These include:

  • Tobacco
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Alcohol

Here are a few key facts to consider about Cancer from the American Cancer Society.[2]

  • A recent study by epidemiologists at the American Cancer Society suggests that at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers – about 729,000 cases in 2018 – are preventable.
  • Globally, 1 in 6 deaths are due to cancer and the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise about 70% over the next twenty years.
  • About 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Around a third of cancer deaths are due to the 5 leading behavioral and dietary risks; high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use.
  • Only 1 in 5 low- and middle-income countries have the necessary data to drive cancer policy.

Research Studies on CBD’s Effects on Cancer

There is a mounting body of evidence in support of CBD as a potential treatment for many types of diseases. So, let’s look at a few research studies covering CBD’s effect on two common types of aggressive cancer.

One extensive study on cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and cancer from the National Institute of Health concludes by saying that:

“There is a strong agreement that pharmacological targeting of the endocannabinoid system is emerging as one of the most promising new methods for reducing the progression of cancer.” [4]

Their research suggests that using cannabinoids-based medicines and therapies, such as CBD, are potentially promising in treating cancer and should be studied further.

Anti-proliferation in Breast Cancer from CBD

The development of breast cancer and its spread to other parts of the body requires several genotypic and phenotypic changes. And, it’s recently been shown that Id-1, an inhibitor of transcription factors, could be a key regulator of the metastatic potential of breast and additional cancers. [3]

A team of researchers studied the effects of CBD, along with other cannabinoids, on aggressive breast cancer cells in vitro and found that CBD was able to inhibit Id-1 expression at the mRNA and protein level in a concentration-dependent fashion. Authors of the study conclude by stating, “Because CBD inhibits Id-1 expression in aggressive breast cancer cells, a rational drug design strategy could be used to potentially create more potent and efficacious analogues. Moreover, reducing Id-1 expression with cannabinoids could also provide a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of additional aggressive cancers …” [3]

CBD Triggers Apoptosis In Human Cancer Cells

Another study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics suggests that cannabinoids possess antitumor properties. In particular, the authors of the study researched the antitumor effects of CBD on Human Glioma cell lines. [5]

The results of their studies showed that CBD was able to inhibit tumor growth and spread, both in vitro and in vivo. For example, in 2004, this team of researchers reportedly showed that “For the first time the CBD can trigger the apoptosis of human gliomas, a very aggressive tumor characterized by poor clinical prognosis and unsatisfactory response to the currently available pharmacological agents.” [5]

CBD in the Treatment of Cancer

The data presented above suggest that CBD may kill cancerous cells and keep them from spreading to other organs and parts of the body. Furthermore, many cancer patients are also reporting using cannabinoids such as CBD to successfully treat their cancers. However, cannabinoids affect each individual uniquely according to many different factors including genetics, personality, environment, potency, dosage, and method of administration.

Research into cannabinoids, cancer, and human health still has a long way to go and many unanswered questions, and the studies listed are merely a small sampling of research on CBD’s effects on cancer. But with yearly cancer rates in the tens of millions, CBD is giving doctors a renewed vision of potential cancer treatments.

Could CBD cure cancer? We do not yet know all the answers. But the promising results seen in studies give patients and doctors hope that CBD might one day provide a promising addition to the arsenal of therapies that may be used to treat cancer patients.

You may also be interested in our article on using CBD to treat pain.


  1. World Health Organization. Cancer. Fact Sheet. Feb. 2018. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures. 2018. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2018/cancer-facts-and-figures-2018.pdf
  3. Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells. Sean D. McAllister. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. Nov. 2007. http://mct.aacrjournals.org/content/6/11/2921.full?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=McAllister&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&fdate=9/1/2007&resourcetype=HWCIT
  4. Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids, and Cancer. Daniel J. Hermanson; Lawrence J Marnett. Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2011. https://www.theroc.us/researchlibrary/Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids and Cancer.pdf
  5. Antitumor Effects of Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoid, on Human Glioma Cell Lines. Paoloa Massi. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 2004 http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/308/3/838

Research Papers on CBD’s Effects on Cancer

Bladder Cancer

Brain Cancer

Breast Cancer

Colon Cancer


Kaposi Sarcoma


CBD-induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells: A novel role of cannabidiol in the regulation of p22phox and Nox4 expression

CBD-Induced Apoptosis in Human Leukemia Cells

Cannabidiol Reduces Leukemic Cell Size – But Is It Important?

Lung Cancer

Cancer related Pain

Prostate Cancer

Skin Cancer

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