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Cancer is a potentially fatal disease caused by abnormal cells in the body that divide and spread into surrounding tissues. Studies have shown marijuana has the capability of helping cancer patients manage the nausea, pain, and weight loss related to cancer treatments, and even limit the growth or kill cancer cells.
Overview of Cancer
Cancer is a term used to classify a large group of diseases that develop because of abnormal cells dividing and growing uncontrollably. Normal body cells continuously grow, divide and die. Cancer cells will continue to grow, rather than die, and they can invade and damage other tissues. Most of the time, cancer cells form a tumor, which can invade nearby normal tissue and crowd it out or push it aside. In a process referred to as metastasis, cancer cells can travel to other parts of body through the bloodstream of lymph vessels. If left untreated, cancers can cause serious illness and death. According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the United States every year.
Cancer is considered a genetic disease because it is associated with changes to the genes that control the way our cells function. Although these changes can be inherited, they can also develop during a person’s lifetime. There are more than 100 different types of cancers, which are commonly named for the organs or tissues from where they form.
Evidence suggests that cannabis has the potential of inhibiting the growth of and even killing cancer cells.
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While most studies investigating cannabis’ therapeutic potential for cancer have been preclinical, findings have shown exciting promise. Major cannabinoids found in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have shown efficacy at inhibiting the progression of cancer. In culture and animal models, the cannabinoids have limited the growth and even killed cancerous cells, suggesting potential for mediating cancer cell death18,22,29,34,39.
Cannabis has also shown to be beneficial for managing the symptoms associated with the disease and its treatments5. Cannabinoids have proven effective at treating the more difficult to control symptoms of nausea, as well as preventing anticipatory nausea, in patients undergoing chemotherapy27. Another study found THC was effective at reducing conditioned rejection and chemotherapy-induced nausea28.
Cannabis has also been shown effective at lowering neuropathic pain that traditional treatment methods were unable to manage54.
Weight loss due to nausea and a loss of appetite are common side effects of cancer treatment. THC, however, has shown to significantly stimulate appetite in patients that have cachexia related to cancer25. In addition, patients treated with THC have a larger appetite and report that food “tastes better”44.
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