How does cannabis help lower the rates of liver cancer?
Liver cancer is one of the fastest-growing cancers. Once you have it, liver cancer is a life-threatening condition and it can quickly turn fatal.
Primary liver cancer begins in the organ itself, while secondary cancer means that it has spread to the liver from another part of the body. Among the three kinds of primary liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form, followed by intrahepatic cancer then angiosarcoma. Liver cancer can be caused by several factors including fatty liver disease, diabetes, alcoholism, tobacco smoking, obesity, and toxic chemical exposure.
Though liver cancer mostly affects seniors aged 55 to 65, anyone can get liver cancer. The prognosis is 3 to 35, according to Cancer.org, depending on how far the cancer has progressed once it has been diagnosed.
However, new studies have shown that cannabis consumers are less likely to get liver cancer. New data that has been published in Cureus, a medical journal, revealed that adults who have a recent history of marijuana consumption are twice less likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma compared to those who don’t have a history of cannabis use. To come up with these findings, researchers from Cleveland Clinic together with investigators at the Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC analyzed more than 1 million subjects as well as their cannabis consumption patterns and the prevalence of hepatocellular carcinoma among them.
They reported that current marijuana consumers are “55 percent less likely to have HCC compared to non-cannabis users.”
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first and largest population-based cross-sectional study of hospitalized patients to explore the association between cannabis use and HCC…. Due to the cross-sectional structure of our study, we are unable to draw direct causation effects. Hence, we suggest prospective clinical studies to further understand the mechanism by which various active ingredients, particularly CBD in cannabis, may possibly regulate hepatocellular carcinoma development,” the authors concluded.
There have been other studies that echo these findings.
In 2018, a study analyzed around 320,000 participants all of whom had a history of alcohol abuse as well as marijuana. The researchers wanted to see if there was any correlation between alcohol and drugs on liver health. According to Dr. Terence Bukong, one of the study’s researchers: “The primary aim of our study was to assess the impact of cannabis use and the development of alcoholic liver disease,” he tells Healthline. “Given that no clinical studies had previously evaluated the impact of cannabis use and the development of progressive stages of alcoholic liver disease in humans, we thought that this was an important research area which needed urgent investigation,” he says.
Meanwhile, a study out of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered a way of treating liver cancer patients with chemotherapy straight into the affected cells while keeping the healthy cells intact. The method makes use of CBD together with a low dose of doxorubicin, a medicine commonly used in chemotherapy.
“Most anticancer treatments are not sufficiently specific, meaning they attack healthy cells together with the malignant ones they’re trying to get rid of,” says Prof. Alexander Binshtok, the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine and Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences head for Pain Plasticity Research. “This leads to many serious side effects associated with chemotherapy. Eliminating cancerous cells while leaving healthy ones alone is an important step toward reducing patients’ suffering,” he adds.
Doxorubicin works for the cancerous cells, though it also has negative side effects for liver and heart cells, which can even cause heart failure when used for liver cancer treatment, Binshtok told The Jerusalem Post.
Another study from 2020 shared similar findings – that cannabis users are generally less likely to contract cancer, compared to non-users.
A meta review conducted by Indiana University South Bend Departmental Chair & Professor of Biology, Dr. Thomas M. Clark, involved 34 varying research studies on marijuana and cancer. Using a statistical analysis, he was able to discover that cannabis users are generally healthier and had a smaller chance of getting cancer.
“The impact of cannabis use on cancer risk is of considerable interest,” Clark said. “Cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States and around the world. In the United States alone, >1.7 million diagnoses and 607,000 deaths are projected from cancer in 2019…. And cancer deaths were responsible for $94.4 billion in lost earnings in 2015,” he says.
The statistical analysis took all kinds of cancer into account, and they ended up concluding that cannabis use may actually decrease the risk for cancer by 10%. “Decreased cancer risk in cannabis users should not be surprising, as cannabis and cannabinoids decrease obesity, inhibit chronic inflammation, reduce fasting insulin levels and insulin sensitivity, and have direct antitumor actions,” Clark writes.
Cannabis is simply much more effective than pharmaceutical drugs because the compounds in the plant bind to our very own endocannabinoid system to provide holistic healing. Using cannabis as part of a healthy lifestyle not only aids in reducing stress and anxiety or helping us sleep better, but it also has long-term health benefits. Provided that one also lives a balanced lifestyle, exercises regularly, eats well, and avoids stress, the studies we have so far suggest that adding cannabis to your daily routine can help ward off deadly diseases such as cancer.