Medical Cannabis May Offer a Less-Invasive Method of Treating Breast Cancer and Diabetes

It is likely that you know of at least one person that was diagnosed with breast cancer. Globally, breast cancer has been reported to be the most prevalent cancer in women, and within America, this cancer affects one in every eight women. Breast cancer is an aggressive and persistent cancer that is affecting women of many different demographics. In previous generations, breast cancer was much more common amongst women in their sixties and seventies, but more recently, this cancer has affected people of all ages as young as twenty and as old as ninety.

Though it is commonly perceived to be an illness that only affects women, even men are not free of risk from this potentially life-threatening cancer, as 2,550 new cases of breast cancer are projected to be diagnosed within men in 2018. Not only this, but survivors of breast cancer have a heightened chance of developing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes by a shocking 20%. How are breast cancer and diabetes, even related?

Breast cancer is different from many other types of cancers in that the growth of the tumor cells is directly affected by hormones such as insulin and their receptors. This means that insulin acts as a key ingredient that causes the tumor cells of breast cancer to uncontrollably multiply and form into larger and more obtrusive tumors.

One study even demonstrated that women with the type of breast cancer with receptors for insulin to easily attach were diagnosed with more severe prognoses than women without the receptors for insulin to bind. This was in part due to the fact that some specific types of insulin receptors were resistant to the chemotherapy, making the treatments for those with insulin receptors less effective. In terms of Diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes, whose bodies don’t use insulin effectively and must supplement their insulin using shots, encounter a problem because the insulin that they are pumping into their bodies to aid their diabetes can be malignant to their breast cancer. So how can cannabis help patients with Breast Cancer and or Diabetes? 

CBD and Apoptosis

Researchers in South Africa investigated and found that cannabidiol (CBD) could be the first non-toxic agent to effectively treat breast cancer that is still multiplying (in metastasis) and oftentimes spreading to other parts of the body. The process that would be used to enable this remedy is called apoptosis, a process in which cells that are deemed to be no longer needed by the body are killed off in a controlled manner. Our bodies perform apoptosis on a regular basis; for example, during menstruation. Apoptosis is the process that kick-starts menstruation, as the uterine lining is shed. This means that if the CBD is able to use apoptosis to kill the tumors, it would be part of a very natural process that our bodies already perform.

If cannabidiol can help kill off unwanted cells, such as tumor cells or receptors that cause the spreading of breast cancer cells, patients could potentially get the same benefits of having gone through the more invasive chemotherapy. The current methods of treating cancer are typically considered harmful to the body in context outside of cancer treatment.

Though this would require more extensive research, CBD could potentially accomplish what chemotherapy and radiation therapy attempt to do without the excessive side effects that come with it, such as hair loss, vomiting, fatigue, and other negative effects. This is because the current methods of chemotherapy and radiation therapy used in the treatment of cancer are similar to using poisons or other substances that are harmful to the human body, and using it to fight the tumors.

In terms of patients with type 2 diabetes, CBD can help rebalance the insulin levels by acting as a regulator that also increases fat breakdown, promotes metabolism, and decreases fat storage, which would be helpful for diabetes patients that are also struggling with obesity; this would be especially true because obesity accompanies diabetes, and as a result, a patient that is diagnosed with one is often times also diagnosed with the other.

The next step for scientists would be to accurately identify the receptors that the part of cannabis can work with. Researchers at the University of Free State in South Africa are already investigating these two potential roles of medical cannabis.

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