Prostate Cancer is a global public health problem. In America, 12.9 % of men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, making it the most common form of cancer in men. An estimated 27,000 men will die of prostate cancer in 2017 alone (cancer.gov). Like many other types of cancer, prostate cancer is very difficult to treat-especially when the cancer becomes metastatic and begins to spread to other parts of the body. Most patients diagnosed with prostate cancer will be given chemotherapy, which has harsh and harmful side effects. Medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, is well known for its powerful ability to ease the toxic symptoms of chemotherapy. Amazingly, a collection of scientific research is showing that medical cannabis actually prevents cancer cell formation. In addition, medical cannabis, through a process known as cellular apoptosis (Guzmán, M, et al) is showing the ability to program cancer cell death. So in addition to alleviating the symptoms of cancer and its treatment, medical cannabis can kill prostate cancer cells.
Cancer of the prostate is caused by a rapid increase or overproliferation of abnormal cells in the prostate (a fluid-secreting gland that aids in male reproduction). There are multiple types of prostate cancers with the most common form being adenocarcinomas, or malignant tumors. Some other types of prostate cancer include sarcomas, small cell carcinomas, and transitional cell carcinomas (cancer.org). These tumors press on the body and can block their surroundings, leading to a disruption in normal body functions. In later stages, the cells can metastasize, or spread to nearby tissue which can cause extensive damage and, in some cases, ultimately lead to death. When prostate cancer is discovered early there is a high chance it can be cured. Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms present in the early stages which makes detection difficult. Men over the age of 50 are encouraged to begin screenings for prostate cancer. For some populations, such as African American men and those with a family history of cancer, they are advised to begin screenings as early as 45 years old (cancer.org).
Scientific and medical research is showing overwhelming support for medical cannabis as a treatment for prostate cancer. A study published in 2012 found that there is sufficient evidence to support the claims that medicines containing cannabinoids, such as the powerful cannabidiol (CBD), are valuable as anti-cancer agents. The authors of this study went on to further conclude that medical cannabis is useful “especially in men with bone metastatic prostate cancer, whom would not only benefit from the possible antiandrogenic effects of cannabinoids but also from analgesia of bone pain, improving quality of life, while reducing narcotic consumption and preventing opioid dependence” (Ramos and Bianco). This study further stated that the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, when activated by cannabis, resulted in decreased cancer cell viability, and increased apoptosis, or cancer cell death.
In addition to slowing down cancer cells and killing them through apoptosis, medical cannabis is also beneficial due to its anti-androgenic effects (Sarfaraz, S, et al). Androgens are male sex hormones that are believed to cause prostate cancer cells to grow. Recent studies have shown that cannabis suppresses androgens, further helping to inhibit growth of cancer cells in the prostate (Ramos and Bianco). In yet another study, medical researchers studying the effects of cannabis sativa, a strain of medical cannabis, stated that they, “proved that the treatments produced a cell growth inhibitory effect on all the different prostate cancer cultures” (Orellana-Serradell, et al).
Prostate Cancer is a serious threat to the health of men worldwide. At its earliest stages, there are not many symptoms and due to this, many patients may not be aware of its presence until it’s too late. The mainstream treatments available, such as chemotherapy, are not always successful in treating the cancer and can be quite aggressive and damaging to the body. Medical cannabis relieves many of the negative symptoms associated with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Additionally, many studies are consistently proving that medical cannabis is an effective treatment for prostate cancer. Cannabinoid receptors, activated by cannabis medications, inhibit cancer cell growth, prevent cancer from spreading to nearby healthy tissue, and research has shown that, through cellular apoptosis, medical cannabis will cause the prostate cancer cells to self destruct.
Written by: Mara Trivino ©KingHarvest.org
1. “Cancer Stat Facts: Prostate Cancer.” Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, Web. seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/prost.html.
2. Guzmán, M, et al. “Control of the cell survival/Death decision by cannabinoids.” Journal of molecular medicine (Berlin, Germany)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11269508.
3. “What Is Prostate Cancer?” American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/what-is-prostate-cancer.html.
4. “Cancer Screening Guidelines | Detecting Cancer Early.” American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/healthy/find-cancer-early/cancer-screening-guidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer.html.
5. Ramos, Juan A., and Fernando J. Bianco. “The Role of Cannabinoids in Prostate Cancer: Basic Science Perspective and Potential Clinical Applications.” Indian Journal of Urology : IJU : Journal of the Urological Society of India, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3339795/.
6. Orellana-Serradell, O, et al. “Proapoptotic Effect of Endocannabinoids in Prostate Cancer Cells.” Oncology Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25606819.
7.Sarfaraz, S, et al. “Cannabinoid Receptor as a Novel Target for the Treatment of Prostate Cancer.” Cancer Research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Mar. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15753356.