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Will CBD Oil Help Skin Cancer Patients?

CBD Oil for Skin Cancer

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Skin cancer affects thousands of people in the UK each year.

It is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, and while it is often non-life-threatening, it can easily spread and become more serious if not treated early on. 2019 saw 224,000 new diagnoses, totalling 1.4 million between 2013 and 2019.

Key Takeaways

  • CBD’s Interaction with the ECS: CBD positively interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a key role in regulating physiological processes such as sleep, memory, and inflammation.
  • Research on CBD and Cancer: Preliminary studies indicate that CBD oil may hinder cancer growth, spread, and the formation of new blood vessels needed by tumours, offering potential as a supplementary cancer treatment.
  • Potential for Side Effect Alleviation: Evidence suggests CBD oil could mitigate some of the adverse side effects associated with conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
  • Legal Status and Availability in the UK: Medical cannabis, including treatments that encompass THC and CBD, has been legally available in the UK since 2018, offering additional therapeutic options for patients enduring severe treatment-related symptoms.

Future Research and Potential: While promising, most existing research on CBD and cancer is preliminary. Future, more extensive clinical trials are necessary to fully understand CBD’s efficacy and safety as part of skin cancer treatment protocols.

Melanoma, the most serious form, accounts for 16,700 cases of skin cancer and kills around 2,300 people in the UK each year. And while it can be fatal, nine out of ten sufferers survive for ten years or more after diagnosis.

In recent years, interest has grown in CBD oil as a potential alternative treatment for skin cancer. Research is in its infancy, but results suggest it has several anti-cancer properties and could prove a valuable weapon in the fight against skin cancer.

CBD Oil for Skin Cancer

Understanding Skin Cancer

There are two main types of skin cancer:

  • Melanoma 
  • Non-melanoma (including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and other rare skin cancers)

The most common risk factor is repeated severe exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, but the following can also increase the risk:

  • Pale or fair-skinned
  • Blond or red hair
  • Skin burns easily
  • Repeated sunburn and blistering
  • Freckles or moles on the face
  • Frequent use of sunbeds
  • Family history of skin cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common skin cancer in the UK and accounts for 75% of all non-melanoma diagnoses. Affecting more than 155,000 people each year, it is a slow-growing cancer that begins in the top layer of skin, known as the epidermis. It rarely spreads beyond the skin, but if it does, it can penetrate the nerves and bones, causing damage and possible disfigurement. 

It most commonly affects the middle-aged and elderly and can often grow back, even after successful treatment. 

Basal Cell Carcinoma Symptoms

BCC normally develops in areas regularly exposed to the sun such as the head, face, or neck.

  • A skin-coloured, shiny bump that’s a little translucent. On pink or white skin, it can look pearly white. On brown or black skin, it might look dark and shiny. Tiny blood vessels may be present, and it might bleed and scab over.
  • A scaly, flat patch with a raised edge which may grow larger over time.
  • A brown, black or blue lesion with slightly raised, translucent edges.
  • A lesion that looks like a scar that might be a little waxy and without any defined edges

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer in the UK, accounting for 23% of non-melanoma skin cancers. In SCC, cancer develops in cells called keratinocytes in the middle and out layers of the skin. Although it doesn’t usually spread, it can move into the lymph nodes and cause complications.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Symptoms

As with basal cell, SCC is most often affects parts of the body regularly exposed to the sun. However, people may also find lesions anywhere on the body, including inside the mouth and on the genitals.

  • A flat sore with a scaly crust
  • A nodule that is firm and red
  • A rough or sore patch inside the mouth
  • A scar with a new sore or a raised area
  • A rough, scaly patch on the lip, which may become an open sore
  • A raised, wartlike sore found on the anus or genital

Other rarer types of non-melanoma skin cancers are:

  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • T cell lymphoma of the skin
  • Sebaceous gland cancer


Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and is the 5th most common cancer in the UK. It has a survival rate of 87% but still accounts for 2,300 cancer deaths each year. It is preventable in 86% of cases.

Melanoma Symptoms

  • Asymmetry: Normal moles exhibit symmetry, meaning both halves mirror each other. Moles or lesions that may be of concern often show asymmetry or an irregular shape.
  • Border Clarity: Healthy moles feature well-defined, clear, and smooth borders. Melanomas may present with blurred, irregular borders and jagged edges.
  • Colour Variation: Healthy moles usually maintain a uniform colour,. Cancerous moles can present in a variety of shades, including different browns and possibly black, white, pink, or blue hues.
  • Diameter: Typical moles do not exceed the diameter of a pencil’s blunt end. Conversely, melanomas are generally larger, often measuring 6mm in diameter or more.

Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin cancers are initially treated by removing the tumour and sending it for biopsy. For BCC and SCC, this may be enough to remove it. If cancer has spread, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the usual next steps. Photodynamic therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy may also be prescribed. 

CBD Oil for Skin Cancer

CBD: What is it?

Cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the Cannabis sativa L. plant and is the second most active phytocannabinoid.

CBD interacts favourably with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vast and complex system of signaller and receptor cells that control many critical bodily functions, including sleep, memory, emotional processing, skin homeostasis, pain control and inflammatory immune responses.

CBD is believed to have many beneficial properties, and studies have shown that it is a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial

The Potential Anti-Cancer Properties of CBD Oil

Research has shown that CBD oil can potentially reduce cancer progression by inhibiting growth, proliferation, and spread, as well as the formation of new blood cells, which cancer needs to survive.

Research published in 2015 revealed CBD had the potential to stop growth in several cancers, including melanoma. A further 2019 study involving mice found that those given CBD experienced a significant reduction in the size of malignant melanoma compared to those given a placebo. 

Traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause significant adverse side effects. Studies of CBD oil have shown it has a potential role in alleviating some of these effects. In addition, several pieces of research have shown that CBD oil can potentially induce cell death, reduce tumour growth, inhibit cell migration, and enhance our natural immune response.

Nabilone, which contains a synthetic version of THC, is licenced in the UK to treat severe nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy that isn’t controlled by other medications. Medical cannabis options are legal in the UK and have been since 2018.

There are a bunch of private medical cannabis clinics now operating in the UK – if you would like to learn more about them and the potential of both THC and CBD in helping reduce the impact of traditional cancer treatment options, check out our sister site covering all the biggest UK Medical cannabis clinics

Making the Case for New Skin Cancer Treatments

CBD oil is not a cure for skin cancers, but the research certainly suggests it can offer some potential benefits that could reduce cancer progression and alleviate the side effects of traditional treatments.

Most studies so far have been small-scale and not standardised. With further large-scale  clinical research, there’s every chance CBD oil will become part of future treatments for skin cancer.