Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a very common type of skin cancer that can be cured when found and treated early. It is named for the squamous cells where it originates, which are flat cells located in the outer layer of the skin, also known as the epidermis. Larger SCC’s can become difficult to cure and also occur in other tissues such as the lungs, esophagus, and cervix, but it is most frequently associated with the skin.
Cannabis extracts like Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), that are high in cannabinoids can kill head and neck cancer cells, a new study has found.
Published in Cancers, the study looked at the anti-tumor effects of 24 unique cannabis extracts on head and neck SCC. The researchers found that CBD-dominant extracts could induce apoptosis and kill these cancer cells. The study showed that combining both CBD with cannabichromene (CBC) in a 2:1 ratio made this anti-cancer effect even stronger.
Although researchers say that further research is still needed before developing products based on these findings, they believe this study suggests that the cannabis extracts like RSO used in palliative care can help with symptom management and provide an additional, previously unknown anti-cancer effect.
Factors that increase your risk of squamous cell carcinoma include:
- Chronic sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds increases the risk of SCC, as well as other types of skin cancer.
- Having light-colored skin, eyes, and hair: Individuals with less pigment in their skin are at higher risk for all forms of skin cancer, including SCC, as they have less natural protection from UV radiation.
- History of sunburns: Severe or repeated sunburns increase the risk of SCC.
- Age: Older individuals are more likely to develop SCC, though it can occur at any age.
- Immunosuppression: People with weakened immune systems, such as those who have undergone organ transplantation, are at higher risk.
Prevention strategies mainly involve protection from the sun: using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding the sun during peak hours. Regular skin examinations can also help detect this and other types of skin cancer early. The prognosis for SCC is generally good when caught and treated early, but it can be more serious if the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
Cannabinoids, including THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), are being studied for their anti-cancer effects. Although the exact mechanisms are still not entirely understood and more research is needed, preliminary studies suggest a number of ways in which THC inhibits the growth of cancer cells:
Apoptosis: Some studies suggest that THC may trigger apoptosis in cancer cells. Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death, a way our body naturally disposes of damaged or unwanted cells. By promoting apoptosis, THC might help to reduce the number of cancer cells.
Anti-proliferative: THC may slow the growth or proliferation of cancer cells. Some studies suggest that it can inhibit the cell cycle, specifically the phase called the G2-M transition, which could slow down the growth of the cancer.
Anti-angiogenesis: Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels. In cancer, this process aids in providing nutrients and oxygen to growing tumors. Some studies suggest that THC might inhibit this process, potentially slowing the growth of the tumor or even causing it to shrink.
Autophagy: Some pre-clinical studies have shown that THC can induce a process called autophagy—a cell’s self-degradation mechanism—leading to cell death in cancerous cells.
Immune modulation: THC can modulate the immune system’s response which could potentially have effects on the growth of cancer cells, although the specifics of this are not fully understood and may depend on the type of cancer and other factors.