Does Cannabis Kill Skin Cancer Cells? Unveiling The Truth!

Cancer takes many forms and can impact almost any area of the body, including the skin. When cancerous cells form in the tissues of the skin itself, it is termed skin cancer. The most common varieties include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

These abnormal skin cells multiply rapidly and can aggressively invade surrounding healthy tissues. Some research indicates that cannabis may have anti-cancer benefits that could kill off or retard the spread of skin cancer cells – and the question arises, does cannabis kill skin cancer cells?.

Skin cancer can be triggered by many factors, most notably sun exposure and ultraviolet light damage over time. The endocannabinoid system helps modulate skin cell growth, differentiation, and survival, typically acting as a tumor-suppressing mechanism.

However, disruptions in endocannabinoid balance have been implicated in the formation of conditions like hyperproliferative skin disorders and skin cancer. This indicates that targeting the endocannabinoid system may help restrict or eliminate malignant cells and tumors. 

What is the relationship between marijuana and cancer?

Marijuana And Cancer

While research specifically investigating the effects of cannabis compounds on skin cancer cells is still in the early stages, cannabis has shown potential therapeutic benefits for treating various types of cancer and associated symptoms.

Many cancer patients have found relief from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy by using cannabis. It can help alleviate nausea, vomiting, pain, loss of appetite, and other distressing symptoms that are common with conventional cancer treatments.

By stimulating appetite and reducing nausea, cannabis may help cancer patients maintain a healthy weight and caloric intake during treatment. It can also provide analgesic effects to relieve pain associated with tumors or treatments. 

Beyond symptom management, some studies suggest cannabinoids like THC and CBD may have direct antitumor activity against various cancer types. Some research has found cannabinoids can induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells, inhibit tumor growth, and prevent metastasis.

These compounds seem to target malignant cells while causing relatively low toxicity in healthy cells. But does cannabis kill skin cancer cells? Let’s examine this closely. 

 Does Cannabis Kill Skin Cancer Cells?

Early lab research has uncovered promising signs that cannabinoids like THC and CBD found in cannabis can hinder the advancement and spread of skin cancer cells through several biological mechanisms.

Impact of Cannabinoid Compounds on Skin Cancer:

  • Inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death): Cannabis Extract Triggers Death of Deadly Skin Cancer Cells by setting off self-destruct signals in cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. 
  • Curtailing tumor growth: Compounds in cannabis may block the proteins and cell signals cancer needs to form blood vessels to fuel tumor expansion (anti-angiogenesis).
  • Stopping metastasis: Cannabinoids also seem to prevent malignant cells from moving elsewhere in the body to form secondary colonies (anti-metastatic).
  • Enhancing immune function: THC has shown immuno-modulating activity, interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system to enhance antitumor immune responses.

What Cannabis is Used for Cancer Treatment?

Cannabis compounds like THC, CBD, and CBN have shown promising anti-cancer potential against skin cancer cells in preclinical laboratory studies.

  • A 2019 study found that applying THC and CBD extracts topically to human cell samples of melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma induced rapid cell death among malignant skin cancer cells.
  • Meanwhile, another 2019 study discovered that the single cannabinoid CBN induced apoptotic events in human melanoma cells while displaying little impact on healthy melanocytes. This suggests some non-psychoactive cannabis components could selectively target skin cancer.
  • An earlier 2014 study likewise found THC and CBD heightened apoptosis in melanoma cells specifically. The researchers concluded both major cannabis compounds had potential for targeted treatment against one of the deadliest skin cancer types – melanoma.


Pre-clinical research examining the effects of cannabinoids on cancer cell lines and animal models shows promise. However, clinical trials testing cannabinoid-based medicines in human cancer patients are still limited.

Some small pilot studies have evaluated synthetic cannabinoids, whole-plant cannabis extracts, or compounds like CBD in treating glioblastoma, breast cancer, and other cancers, with mixed results. More robust clinical trials with larger patient populations are needed to determine whether cannabis may be an effective adjunctive or primary treatment for specific types of cancer.

While not yet proven as an anti-cancer agent, cannabis and cannabinoids demonstrate therapeutic potential for improving the quality of life of cancer patients and possibly treating some malignancies directly. More research is warranted to fully understand the mechanisms behind cannabis’ anti-tumor effects and how it could be utilized alongside or in place of standard treatments.


While the available research remains primarily in vitro for now, preclinical studies continue indicating that cannabis-derived components like THC, CBD, and CBN hold significant anti-cancer potential in skin cancer. By interfering with proteins and pathways skin cancer cells rely on, they seemingly prompt targeted program cell death only in malignant cells.

The endocannabinoid system already works to achieve homeostasis and detect dysfunctional skin cells prone to becoming cancerous. So enhancing endocannabinoid tone with cannabis compounds reinforces these intrinsic tumor-suppressing functions

If the promising petri dish studies can be replicated in animal models and eventually human trials, curating customized cannabinoid preparations could provide oncologists with a novel treatment approach against non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers. Patients may be able to use topical cannabinoid therapies to inhibit the progression of skin lesions or as an adjunct for battling malignancy post-diagnosis.

As research continues unfolding, could specially optimized cannabis compounds offer the dermatological community a future pharmaceutical ally against skin cancer? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.


Dr. Luna Rey specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of skin conditions, from common conditions like acne and eczema to more complex conditions like psoriasis and skin cancer. In addition to her medical practice, Dr. Luna has a strong interest in writing and has published numerous articles on dermatology topics in leading medical journals. Her writing style is clear, concise, and easy to understand, making her work accessible to a broad audience.

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