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Medical Marijuana and Cancer, Skin

marijuana for skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. If you suspect you have it, it's essential that you go to your doctors and receive an official diagnosis to determine which kind of skin cancer you have. Knowing the type of cancer you have affects your prognosis and your options for treatment. Medical marijuana for skin cancer might be an ideal treatment to help you with your cancer symptoms and the side effects of treatment.

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer occurs when you have abnormal skin cells that grow uncontrollably. It happens when you have skin cells with unrepaired DNA damage (usually by UV sun rays or tanning beds), which trigger mutations that lead the cells to rapidly multiply and turn into malignant tumors. Genetic defects are also a factor.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are several types of skin cancer including:

Melanoma

This type of skin cancer is the deadliest form. Melanoma often appears suddenly on your skin as a new dark spot or as a mole. It's important that you receive a diagnosis early and treatment.

Actinic Keratoses (AK)

AKs are scaly, dry spots or patches and are precancerous growths. Individuals with AKs typically have fair skin and don't usually notice their first AKs until after they're 40 years old since AKs often grow after years of sun exposure.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

basal cell cancer

The most common skin cancer type, basal cell carcinomas often develop in individuals with fair skin. They look like pearl-like, flesh-colored bumps or pink patches on your skin and are caused by indoor tanning or frequent sun exposure. Without treatment, they can grow into your bones and nerves, invade surrounding tissue and cause disfigurement and damage.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most common skin cancer and develops in people with light skin. SCC often looks like a scaly patch, a red firm bump or a sore that comes and goes. Frequent sun exposure is usually the cause, and without treatment, SCC can grow deep into your skin causing disfigurement and damage.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC)

Merkel cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer that’s not very common. It starts when skin cells, known as Merkel cells, begin growing uncontrollably. MCC can proliferate rapidly and can be difficult to treat once it’s spread beyond your skin. Even though it’s less common than other skin cancers, it’s very dangerous.

MCC usually starts on skin that’s seen a lot of sun exposure like your neck, face and arms. However, it can start on any part of your body. Its tumors typically look like firm, red, pink or purple bumps or lumps on your skin. While not painful, they can multiply and may open up as sores or ulcers.

History of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer documentation has been around throughout history. In Peru, several 2400-year-old mummies showed signs of having skin cancer. In 1787, John Hunter, anatomist and Scottish surgeon, performed the first surgical procedure on a lesion thought to be skin cancer.

Hunter wasn't sure what the lesion was and said it appeared to be a "cancerous fungus excrescence," meaning a cancerous fungus. Rene Laennec, a French physician, was the first person to name melanoma as a disease. He discussed it in 1804 in a lecture, with his findings published in the year 1806.

In the year 1840, Samuel Cooper, a doctor, reported that melanoma in its advanced stage was untreatable. Even to this present time, there hasn't been much progress keeping the situation just as true today.

Effects of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer mainly develops on areas of skin exposed to the sun such as:

  • Face
  • Scalp
  • Ears
  • Lips
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Chest
  • Neck
  • Legs

However, it may develop on areas of your skin that rarely see sunlight like your genital area, palms and beneath your toenails and fingernails. Skin cancer affects individuals of any skin tone, including those with a darker complexion.

If you have skin cancer, especially if it's in its advanced stage, you may experience some emotional feelings like:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling out of control

These are common feelings that many people experience after receiving a diagnosis or if their treatment has changed. These cancer-related negative feelings may come and go, but they should improve over time as you adjust to the fact you have skin cancer and are receiving treatment. You'll learn how to cope with these emotional feelings.

Skin Cancer Statistics

Facts and figures about skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation include:

  • In the U.S. each year, in more than 5.4 million non-melanoma skin cancer cases, doctors are treating over 3.3 million individuals.
  • More people have received a diagnosis of skin cancer of the past 30 years than any other cancers combined.
  • In the course of a lifetime, one in five individuals in the U.S. will develop skin cancer.
skin cancer stats

The American Academy of Dermatology reports the following about skin cancer:

  • In the U.S., estimates indicate that almost 9,500 people receive a skin cancer diagnosis each day.
  • Over one million individuals in the U.S. are living with melanoma.
  • SCC and BCC are the two most common skin cancer types and when detected early and appropriately treated, are highly curable.

Current Treatments Available for Skin Cancer and Their Side Effects

There are several types of treatments for skin cancer including:

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery or cryotherapy is a procedure where the doctor uses liquid nitrogen or argon gas to produce extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissue. Your doctor will use cryosurgery to treat external skin tumors by applying the liquid nitrogen directly to your cancer cells using a spraying device or cotton swab.

Possible side effects of cryosurgery include blister formation, bleeding, hair loss, headache and hypopigmentation.

Medications

Approved medications for BCC include:

  • Efudex
  • Aldara
  • Imiquimod
  • 5-FU
  • Erivedge
  • Fluorouracil
  • and more

Approved medications for Melanoma include:

  • Cotellic
  • Aldesleukin
  • Dacarbazine
  • Cobimetinib
  • Imlygic
  • Dacarbazine
  • Keytruda
  • Interleukin-2
  • and more

Common side effects for many of these drugs may include:

  • Stomach pain or upset
  • Chills
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Decrease in appetite

Discuss side effects with your doctor for each medication.

Electrodesiccation

Electrodesiccation is a straightforward and quick office-based procedure where your doctor uses an electric current through a needle-shaped electrode to deliver superheat to specific pinpoint areas of your skin. Possible side effects of electrodesiccation include bleeding, temporary lightening or darkening of the treated skin, scarring and infection.

Mohs Surgery

Mohs surgery is a procedure where your doctor completely removes lesions while being careful not to remove healthy adjacent skin. Mohs surgery can treat any area of your body, although surgeons usually use it for non-melanoma skin cancers that occur on your eyelids, ears, lips and nose.

Medical Cannabis for Skin Cancer

It's no secret that there are medical benefits of marijuana. At least 85 distinct types of cannabinoids are in cannabis. These cannabinoids positively treat cancer symptoms and cancer treatment side effects.

How Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Skin Cancer

Hemp oil contains cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids, vitamins, minerals and many other components that have an array of health benefits. When you apply hemp oil topically, your skin absorbs it. Your skin contains cannabinoid receptors that make CBD a potential treatment for many conditions that range from dry skin to skin cancer. Since you apply CBD hemp oil directly on trouble areas, it works where you need it most without absorbing into your bloodstream.

The British Journal of Pharmacology published a peer-reviewed study showing several cannabinoids including cannabigerol (CBG), non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidivarin (CBV) that seem to "switch off" skin cells that grow uncontrollably. Uncontrolled growth of this kind is a factor in skin allergies and skin cancers.

cannaboids

In this study, the researchers documented the effects of these three cannabinoids on human skin cell lines. CBD was the most effective of the three in addressing unwanted DNA activity, with CBG coming in second. Although THC works as an effective skin allergy treatment, researchers are directing their attention to compounds in cannabis that don't get you high, since many patients find that option more appealing.

The researchers in the study claim phytocannabinoids such as CBD that appear to stop detrimental DNA activity that promotes skin cancer may also be a new treatment that may help "switch off" unwanted gene activity on a larger scale.

In another study, carried out by the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health, and published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, researchers discovered that cannabinoids reduced skin cancer by 90 percent over a 20-week period.

What Symptoms of Skin Cancer Can Medical Marijuana Treat?

Marijuana for skin cancer can help ease a variety of symptoms that cancer and cancer treatment cause, such as:

  • Antineoplastic Properties: Animal and lab testing shows that medical cannabis may slow down or stop tumor growth.
  • Neuropathy: Neuropathy means “nerve damage.” It’s a common complication of cancer treatments. Patients experience numbness, weakness, burning or tingling in the hands and feet as a result of neuropathy. Medical weed offers patients experiencing neuropathy pain relief.
  • Cachexia or Anorexia: Cachexia is the occurrence of unintentional weight loss (wasting syndrome). Loss of fat and lean muscle is typical. A decline in functional abilities and fatigue often accompany the condition.

Anorexia is a medical term that doctors use for “loss of appetite.” The FDA approves Dronabinol (a synthetic cannabinoid) for anorexia linked to AIDS, but not cancer specifically. However, medical cannabis increases a person’s appetite.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Feeling unwell or exhausted
  • Sexual problems
  • Numbness or weakness in your legs or arms
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Problems with sleep
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Feeling hopeless

Best Strains of Marijuana To Use For Skin Cancer

Although all medical weed offers similar therapeutic benefits, there are specific effects of indica and sativa that are different from one another.

Benefits of indica include:

  • Sleep-induction
  • Relaxation
  • Tiredness
  • Reduced nausea
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Inflammation reduction

Benefits of sativa include:

  • Increased energy
  • Mood elevation
  • Focus and clarity
  • Increased appetite
  • Nausea relief

Hybrid forms of medical pot provide a cross-section of benefits. Many hybrid strains increase relaxation and reduce nausea.

Some cannabis strains to consider and the symptoms they treat include:

  • Amnesia Haze (Sativa): depression, stress, pain and fatigue
  • Obama Kush (Indica): pain, nausea, stress, depression and insomnia
  • Pineapple Kush (Hybrid): stress, depression, nausea, pain and fatigue
  • Euphoria (Sativa): lack of appetite, muscle spasms, pain and depression
  • Chemo (Indica): nausea, pain, lack of appetite, insomnia and stress
  • Blue Frost (Hybrid): depression, insomnia, fatigue, pain and stress
  • Chocolate Kush (Indica): pain, insomnia, headaches and lack of appetite

Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for Skin Cancer

By experimenting with different methods of marijuana and skin cancer treatment, you'll identify which therapy works best for you. There are various ways to reap the benefits of cannabis — each with its own unique experience.

Cannabis Oil

Standard cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can cause damage that requires repair before you can begin your marijuana treatment. A suppository of high-CBD cannabis oil may help purge your body of radiation after receiving radiation treatment. You may not like the idea of this method of therapy, but it's a step you can take after receiving radiation to help prevent cancer recurrence. You won't get "high" with this method, but you may feel relaxed after you apply the oil on your skin. 

Transdermal Patch

Another possible treatment method is a transdermal patch. Transdermal patches work off your skin with a steady dose of marijuana and a controlled release of cannabinoids required for acting on cancer.

Smoking

Smoking medical weed provides you with fast relief from your nausea, pain and other symptoms. 

Edibles

When deciding to use cannabis treatment, many people try the edible products. There is a variety of ways you can ingest your pot including brownies, crackers, cookies, chocolate bars, chews and even lollipops and ice cream. The relief you get will last for a while.

edibles

Topicals

Use topical solutions like ointments, salves, lotions, sprays and other to relieve joint pain, muscle soreness and other problems. You get an effective treatment to relieve localized pain without getting "high."

Vaporizing

Vaporizing is another method of inhaling but is not as harsh on your lungs as smoking is.

Tinctures

Tincture products offer a way for you to spray or squirt your treatment into your mouth. Tinctures are usually a mixture of glycerin, cannabinoid oil and extracts or alcohol. With this method, you can control your dosage easily.

Suppositories

Medical weed can also come in the form of a suppository. With this method, the active ingredients absorb through your colon quickly and you feel the effects just as fast.

Ingesting Fresh Cannabis

When you consume fresh cannabis, you're preserving all the active ingredients and contents, even the ones that might be reduced or eliminated during the heating or drying process. Juices and smoothies are the best way to ingest your fresh cannabis.

Getting Started with Medical Marijuana

Search for a medical marijuana doctor today to begin your cannabis for skin cancer treatment to alleviate your skin cancer symptoms. We can connect you with quality medical marijuana doctors in all legal marijuana states across the country to ensure you comply with your state laws. Let us help improve your quality of life by booking an appointment today.

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This information is not provided by medical professionals and is intended only to complement, and not to replace or contradict, any health or medical advice or information provided by healthcare professionals. If you have any questions, please contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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