Cannabinoids for Skin Cancer

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Of the three major types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common. 

The CDC estimates that, each year, "about 4.3 million adults are treated for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas" and that the cost of this treatment approaches $5 billion. 

A 2022 study entitled "Impact of Cannabinoid Compounds on Skin Cancer" that was published in the journal Cancers investigated the potential role of cannabinoids produced by cannabis and hemp for skin cancer.

The study noted that recent research and other scientific investigations "have suggested an essential function of the endocannabinoid system [ECS] in the homeostasis of various skin functions" and that cannabinoids could "be considered for the treatment of tumor diseases of the skin."

The study revealed much about the role of the dominant cellular receptors of the ECS, CB1, and CB2. It noted that "inhibition of cannabinoid receptors an...option to prevent skin cancer caused by UV radiation."

The researchers also found that CBD "may serve as a protective agent for skin cancer prevention" due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It also revealed anti-tumor activity against melanoma cancer exhibited by the endocannabinoid anandamide that is produced by the human body. The study reported that anandamide has demonstrated "concentration-dependent cytotoxicity [anti-cancer effects]" via the mechanism of apoptosis.

The study concluded that cannabinoids inhibit (slow or prevent) the growth of skin cancer cells and that cannabinoids "could be a promising option for the...treatment of melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin."

The study's authors reported, "In summary, cannabinoids represent a chemically and functionally heterogeneous group of compounds that mediate potentially protective effects for the prevention of skin cancer through different mechanisms."

The study emphasized that more research, particularly clinical trials involving humans, are necessary to fully understand the potential role of marijuana- and hemp-derived cannabinoids in the treatment of a range of skin cancers.

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