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January 16, 2020

Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco
  • 2Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas (CIBERNED), Madrid, Spain
  • 3Instituto Ramón y Cajal de Investigación Sanitaria (IRYCIS) at Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(3):323-324. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.5983

Not long ago, discussion was focused on whether cannabis caused cancer. A thorough review by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found moderate evidence of no statistical association between cannabis use and the development of lung and head and neck cancers.1 Limited evidence of a statistical association was found between cannabis use and the development of nonseminomatous testicular carcinomas without good support for a causative effect. Throughout the past few years, the pendulum has swung to the point where many patients with cancer diagnoses are convinced, mainly by internet testimonials, that cannabis, particularly highly concentrated oils or tinctures of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD), may actually cure their cancers. What is the basis of this belief?

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    1 Comment for this article
    Cannabis and cancer
    Steven King, M.D. | Pain Management Physician
    The author lists pain as one of the symptoms associated with cancer and its treatments for which cannabis and cannabinoids have significant utility. As a pain management physician, I have to disagree with this.

    While there is extensive literature demonstrating the benefits of these for the nausea and vomiting and anorexia related to cancer and there are FDA approved cannabinoid based medications for these, there is very little literature showing similar efficacy for pain and the studies that have been performed on the subject have been mostly of low quality.

    I know there are many anecdotes of
    patients claiming cannabis as a magical cure for all types of pain but I think most of prefer to practice medicine based on actual research.