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New Study Suggests Cannabis Helps Prevent the Development of Colon Cancer in Mice

November 3, 2020 10:56 am ET
New Study Suggests Cannabis Helps Prevent the Development of Colon Cancer in Mice

For quite some time, we have known that cannabis can be useful in alleviating the symptoms associated with cancer and its treatments such as chemotherapy. It is commonly used to alleviate the nausea and vomiting associated with such treatment and it can even stimulate the appetite to avoid weight loss. Now, a new study has shown that cannabis could prevent colon cancer in mice. The revelation that cannabis can prevent a type of cancer in mice means that it holds the hope of doing the same for humans. 

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer sometimes referred to as colorectal cancer, is explained as a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine (colon). The colon is the final part of the digestive tract and while colon cancer is typical in older adults, it can present at any age. Colon cancer usually begins as benign (non-cancerous) small clumps of cells known as polyps. The polyps form inside the common and develop into colon cancers over time. When the cells are benign and remain so, there are very few, if any, symptoms to indicate their presence, which is why physicians recommend regular screening tests to discover polyps before they turn cancerous. 

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Most people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages but when the following symptoms appear, they will vary depending on the size and location of the cancerous cells in your large intestine. 

  • Inconsistent bowel movements such as going from constipation to diarrhea persistently. 
  • Rectal bleeding. 
  • Blood in stool.
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort which includes cramps, gas, and pain.
  • Weakness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Feeling like the bowel does not empty. 

A Summary of the New Study

Researchers looked at the activation of the cannabinoid receptor type 2 as a way of preventing colitis-associated colon cancer by myeloid cell deactivation of what is called the “upstream of IL-22 production”. The study was published in late August 2020 and found that cannabis helped prevent the development of colon cancer in mice. 

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It explains that when the intestines are in a state of disequilibrium, it can lead to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and that chronic inflammation then leads to oncogenesis (the process where healthy cells turn cancerous). The study goes on to demonstrate how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reduces colitis-associated colorectal cancer, which is a specific type of colon cancer that develops from long-standing colon inflammatory bowel disease. THC is able to attenuate or reduce colorectal cancer by binding to the endocannabinoid receptor called cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). 

Through examining tissues from multiple locations, the team of researchers was able to confirm that THC affects cells especially in the mucosal barrier sites found in the colon and the lungs. By using models of colitis (chronic digestive disease) and systemic inflammation, they were able to display that THC can act as a potent suppressor of abnormal immune responses by “provoking coordination” between the antigen-presenting cells and T cells in the immune system.  

Other Preventative Measures

Now that cannabis stands as a possible preventative measure for colon cancer, let’s have a look at the other preventative measures which can be taken to further reduce the chances of developing colon cancer.

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in order to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients. 
  • Avoid drinking but if you choose to drink, do it in moderation. 
  • Stop smoking. This also means that your cannabis therapy will fare better when ingested.
  • Try to exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight through balanced meals and regular exercise. 

Until now, we have known that cannabis can be helpful in alleviating inflammation, pain as well as nausea, and vomiting. Now, cannabis shows potential preventative promise against cancer. It has been reported that 2020 has seen 104,610 new cases of colon cancer in America. With such high numbers of new colon cancer diagnosis in one country, cannabis could become a means of reducing the presentation of new cases across the globe.

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