Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American women. And according to the National Cancer Institute, a woman born today has about a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime.

In response to these statistics, researchers are continually searching for new ways to provide effective treatment for breast cancer. Several studies suggest that cannabidiol, or CBD — a non-intoxicating cannabinoid molecule produced by cannabis — may have potential as an anticancer agent in breast cancer treatment.

CBD and Breast Cancer Cells

A study published in 2011 by the American Association for Cancer Research reported that CBD caused breast cancer cell death. The study found that CBD inhibited the survival of estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cell lines. This finding means that CBD may have the potential to treat different types of breast cancer, including triple-negative breast cancer — an aggressive type of breast cancer that does not respond to hormonal therapy and other common treatments.

The study also found that CBD specifically targets breast cancer cells, stating that “… CBD preferentially kills breast cancer cells, while minimizing the damage to normal breast tissue.” A study published in 2013 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported a similar finding, stating that CBD did not appear to affect normal cell lines.

The 2013 study suggested that CBD may also play a role in preventing breast cancer growth and stopping breast cancer cells from spreading to other areas of the body; “… evidence is emerging to suggest that CBD is a potent inhibitor of both cancer growth and spread.” That’s because CBD may reduce the expression of proteins, such as Id-1, that cause cancer cells to grow.

CBD also has been shown to weaken angiogenesis, a process that increases blood vessel growth and blood flow to the tumor site. Because tumors need an increased blood supply to grow, this weakening may help to prevent or slow cancer cell growth.

Other Benefits of CBD

Although the number of studies on CBD and breast cancer treatment is limited and most studies have been conducted on animals, researchers are hopeful about the potential clinical applications in humans.

CBD is non-toxic, which means that it would likely cause few or no side effects for most people with breast cancer. As a result, CBD may have the potential to be used in combination with other breast cancer treatments without adverse interactions.

The previously mentioned 2013 study also suggested that CBD may increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. If CBD and chemotherapy are administered together, the study suggested, patients may be able to get the same cancer-fighting results by using a lower dose of chemotherapy — thereby reducing the toxicity and related side effects of treatment.

In addition to its potential cancer-fighting properties, CBD may also be beneficial in helping to reduce anxiety, insomnia, pain, and other side effects of breast cancer treatment. 

Ongoing Research

More research is needed to understand how cancer cells respond to CBD and determine how CBD could be used to treat different types of breast cancer. As medical experts learn more about breast cancer and seek new, less-toxic breast cancer therapies, researchers are continuing to explore CBD as a potential alternative or supplementary breast cancer treatment.


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