Cannabis Topicals and Cancer - What They Can and Cannot Do

The medical cannabis industry is one full of good people who genuinely want to help others.These people work every day to  help increase public awareness about the healing qualities of cannabis so that patients can get the medicine they need, often finding relief with cannabis that they would not be able to get from any conventional treatments.

Unfortunately, every industry has at least a few bad eggs. What's unfortunate is that in the medical cannabis industry, many of those bad eggs have decided to take advantage of the desperation that people feel when battling advanced stages of cancer. 

For example, there are grandiose claims about cannabis topicals that can "cure" skin cancer by doing things like "lifting the toxins out of the skin" or "killing the microbes that cause cells to become cancerous."

To be clear, there is no scientific study at present that proves any form of cannabis can slow, stop, or  reverse the growth of cancer cells in humans. There are some promising studies, that involve ingested cannabis and certain types of cancer, but these do not constitute proof that any cannabis treatment will work in the same way in a human being. In fact, there is a lot of debate on this subject.

To complicate the issue, some rats in the studies showed an acceleration in tumor growth when cannabis containing THC was applied. Further scientific study is clearly required, including clinical trials in humans, before anyone can claim that any kind of cannabis is a cure for any type of cancer.

Pain Relief, Not Cancer Cure

Cannabis topicals are not meant to cure skin cancer. What they do is provide symptom relief. When it comes to skin cancer, the primary use of a topical is going to be for localized pain relief. A cannabis topical can be a viable substitute for pain medications, especially opiate pain medications that put people at risk for dependency and addiction. 

There are a number of different types of pain-relieving topicals that will often blend in other ingredients, such as cocoa butter, coconut oil, and essential oils. These help to moisturize the skin and create a pleasant aroma that masks the natural smell of cannabis.

Topicals can also be applied to muscles that are experiencing pain due to cancer. Certain varieties are formulated to penetrate deep into the local area where they are applied, but do not enable psychoactive compounds like THC to reach the central nervous system and produce the "high" feeling common to smoking, vaping, and edibles.

Don't Get Your Topicals Confused!

A pain-relieving topical is different from the topical forms of chemotherapy that are sometimes used in skin cancer treatment, like 5-fluorouracil or Picato. 

These treatments are designed to kill cancer cells, not to simply relieve pain. There are also immune system response modifiers, such as Zyclara, that come in the form of topical creams. These are intended to "mark" the cancer cells so that the immune system can target them for removal.

If you are undergoing any sort of topical or local treatment for skin cancer, it is important to consult with your doctor to determine whether a cannabis topical will be appropriate for treating the pain, redness, and swelling that often accompanies these methods.

Just for Pain (for Now)

At some point in the future, we may see a more enlightened social state where cannabis is taken off of the Schedule I controlled substances list and becomes more readily available for clinical trials in human patients. 

When that day comes, we may find that some form of ingested or topical cannabis does have the capability to kill off cancer. 

Until that time, however, cannabis is primarily meant to be  a complementary treatment that eases pain and swelling when conventional treatments are not working well for the patient.