In the U.S., the color pink has long been associated with femininity — baby girls wrapped in pink blankets, little girls in pink tutus, and grown women marketed everything from alcohol to athletic shoes to work spaces, all splashed in dusty rose hues. Over the past few decades, however, pink has come to represent something more serious. This began in 1992, when Self Magazine’s Breast Cancer Awareness issue paired pink with breast cancer — making pink (and specifically pink ribbons) an indelible symbol of a brutal disease that kills more than 40,500 women in the United States each year.
Since 1980, the world’s largest breast cancer fundraising organization, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, has invested more than $2.9 billion in breast cancer research. Still, in the United States alone, one in 8 women is diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, making it (according to the World Health Organization), the top cancer affecting women in both developing and developed countries worldwide.
Risk factors for developing breast cancer include age, weight, hormone levels, alcohol consumption, and, of course, being born female. Though genetics play a large part in who gets breast cancer and who does not, prevention strategies include receiving annual mammograms, conducting regular self exams, and educating yourself on all of the disease’s symptoms. Other preventative measures include maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding hormone medications or, at the least, understanding the risks associated with them.
While there have been tremendous advancements in breast cancer treatments in recent years, women still deal with difficult, long-term effects of these treatments. Options like radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy can be aggressive and invasive to the body, but there’s a reason we continue using them — they often work.
Side effects of many cancer treatments can make living with cancer even more miserable — sometimes to the point where patients stop treatment altogether. But new medical research suggests there may be a safe way to counterbalance some of the more adverse side effects of conventional cancer treatments, and potentially even to kill cancer cells without them. Enter cannabis.
There are no definitive conclusions about treating cancer (or cancer treatments’ side effects) with cannabis yet, but studies abound that speak to its potential benefits. The American Association for Cancer Research found that, unlike chemo and radiation therapy, the cannabinoid CBD can actually destroy breast cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. Dr. Christine Sanchez, a molecular biologist at Complutense University in Madrid, has been studying cannabinoids for over ten years, and her research has shown that a fellow cannabinoid, THC, can yield these same benefits when paired with CBD. “We decided to analyze these compounds in animal models of breast and brain tumors. The results we have obtained are telling us that cannabinoids may be useful for the treatment of breast cancer,” says Dr. Sanchez. Likewise, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information states that CBD can also effectively inhibit the growth of tumors.
Furthermore, the healing powers of cannabis aren’t limited to cannabinoids like THC or CBD. According to new research, cannabis holds multiple compounds that can help heal the body, such as terpenes which are found abundantly in the plant. A clinical review in the British Journal of Pharmacology outlines how two of these terpenes, myrcene and limonene, have been found to help reduce symptoms like pain and insomnia and prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells, respectively. When working together, cannabinoids and terpenes have been shown to put up an even stronger fight against cancer and its symptoms.
While research is still relatively nascent, developing studies reveal how the cannabis plant can be beneficial in fighting breast cancer. As common breast cancer treatments are often harmful to the body and, in some patients, can cause lasting side effects; CBD and other cannabis compounds may be able to provide a safer alternative treatment and a more promising future for eradicating breast cancer and supporting the patients and families it affects.
The content on cannabisMD is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.