Studies show cannabis may be a future help for bladder cancer symptoms.
Legalization and increased research is revealing cannabis as a potential therapeutic tool. Research is expanding and access to quality cannabis is more common for research teams. Cannabis for cancer is one of the most publicized potential uses. While there are few human clinical trials that are complete, results from lab and animal studies are promising. Could cannabis actually reduce bladder cancer symptoms or risk?
For men, bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer. It is less common in women, but still a relevant risk. Unfortunately, in the 2022, the American Cancer Society reported 81,180 new cases of bladder cancer (61,700 in men) and approximately 17,100 deaths (12,120 in men).
It is highly treatable if discovered in early stages. Bladder tumors can, however, grow very quickly and spread. This is why it is important to recognize the early symptoms, including: blood in urine, urinary urgency, difficulty starting to urinate, frequent urinary infections, and anemia. In later stages, your physician may be able to feel a mass and unintentional weight loss may occur.
Cannabis and Bladder Cancer
According to a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, A Bettiga, M Aureli, G Colciago, V Murdica, R Luciano, D Canals, P Hedland, G Lavorgna, R Colombo, R Bassi, M Samarani, F Montorsi, A Salonia, F Benigni. Bladder Cancer Cell Growth and Motility … Continue reading”both clinical and experimental evidence [suggests] a possible role of the Endocannabinoid System in modulating cancer proliferation, progression, and metastasis.” Further, the volume of CB2 receptors was higher in bladder cancer tissue than in healthy tissue. Even more, “exposure to CB2 agonists” (like cannabinoids and endocannabinoids) resulting in reduced tumor growth and increased cancer cell death.
A more recent study, on canine urothelial cells, had similar results. Published in PLoS ONE (2021), J Inkol, S Hocker, A Mutsaers. Combination Therapy with Cannabidiol and Chemotherapeutics in Canine Urothelial Carcinoma Cells. PLoS ONE (2021). doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0255591. cannabidiol (CBD), “reduced cell viability and induced apoptosis in canine urothelial cells.” Further, when combine with mitoxantrone and vinblastine (chemotherapy), the rate of cancer cell death increased dramatically. This is an important study on mammalian cells and it justifies next steps – to test efficacy in vivo (i.e. in the body).
It is clear that cannabis acts on CB2 receptors to kill bladder cancer cells, at least in vitro.
Doesn’t Smoking Cannabis Increase Risk of Bladder Cancer?
A 2015 study investigated the association between cannabis consumption and tobacco smoking on bladder cancer rates. The study evaluated patient records from the California Men’s Health Study cohort. It focused on 84,170 patients aged between 45 and 69 years. Of the participants, there was a cross section of tobacco smokers versus cannabis, and those who use both (27%).
The study followed participants for eleven years. The results showed that, after adjusting for age, race or ethnicity, and body mass index, tobacco consumers had higher risk of bladder cancer. Additionally, a 45% reduction in bladder cancer incidence was associated cannabis consumers. This study demonstrates that cannabis may be able to reduce bladder cancer risk.
The short answer is – no, cannabis does not appear to increase bladder cancer risk and may actually reduce it overall.
Can Cannabis Reduce Cancer Risk?
With promising cancer-reducing properties demonstrated in this study, the question remains, just how does cannabis reduce bladder cancer risk?
While this study itself didn’t offer any conclusions as to cannabis’ relationship or mechanisms of action on bladder cancer, cannabis has demonstrated anti-cancer properties.
Cannabis: Anti-Tumor Properties
Cannabinoids are active compounds found in cannabis and it is thought that one of the main cannabinoids, THC, may induce an anti-tumor effect. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, interacts with the body by binding to and activating cannabinoids receptors like the G-protein coupled receptors CB1 and CB2.
Cannabinoids have been linked to reduced cancer cell growth, and cannabinoids have demonstrated strong anticancer actions in preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies. One study found that cannabinoids may possibly act with tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily (TRFNS) to induce cell death. The same study also found that certain cannabinoids have demonstrated an ability to sensitize cancer cells to synergistic tumor cell death.
The Role Of CB1 and CB2 In Reducing Cancer Cell Growth
The receptors CB1 and CB2 are another way that cannabinoids might exert anti-cancer action. The activation of both of these receptors limits the growth of human cancer cells.
One study found that when a CB2 activator was applied in vivo to mice, a significant regression of malignant tumors caused by the inoculation of C6 glioma cells occurred. CB2 activation managed to initiate apoptosis and cause the death of these cancer cells.
The same CB2 activator also showed potential tumor cell reduction abilities in another study where mice received the agonist. The study found that the CB2 activator considerably inhibited the growth of malignant tumors, thanks to it its inoculation of epidermal tumor cells in the mice. The study also used a mixed CB1/CB2 activator which demonstrated similar results. The agonist-induced inhibition is a result of apoptosis. Importantly, subjects demonstrated an increased number of apoptotic cells. Altered blood vessel morphology and a reduction in the growth factors that encourage blood vessel growth were also thought to contribute to tumor inhibition as tumors require a blood supply to grow to a substantial size.
CB1 and CB2 have also demonstrated further significant anti-tumor potential. Two studies, involving agonists to these cannabinoid receptors, resulted in reduced cancer cell numbers in animal models. The first showed the CB1/CB2 agonist reduced C6 glioma cells, while the other resulted in reduced cancer cell growth in breast tissue when combined with radiation.
Cannabis May Help A Range Of Cancers
But the anti-cancer capacity of cannabis is not limited to glioma or breast cancers. Research has shown that cannabis and cannabinoids may be able to play an important cancer-reducing role. Studies have demonstrated cannabis’ anti-cancer potential on cancers including bladder, glioma, prostate, blood, lung, breast, oral, and liver cancers
Is Cannabis a Cure for Bladder Cancer Symptoms?
Once dosage, drug interaction, administration, and side effects are properly understood, cannabis treatment may become common. One exciting possibility for future cancer therapies its potential as a treatment used alongside traditional cancer treatments. In fact, one study used a current pancreatic cancer drug alongside cannabinoid treatment and found that these combined therapies resulted in a significant reduction in human pancreatic tumor cell growth.
It’s an exciting possibility that cannabis may help to reduce bladder cancer symptoms. But, it’s important to remember that this research is in its infancy. Clinical human trials will offer proper insight into cannabis’ effects on bladder cancer symptoms and its exact mechanisms of action.
|↑1||A Bettiga, M Aureli, G Colciago, V Murdica, R Luciano, D Canals, P Hedland, G Lavorgna, R Colombo, R Bassi, M Samarani, F Montorsi, A Salonia, F Benigni. Bladder Cancer Cell Growth and Motility Implicated CB2-Mediated Modifications of Sphingolipids Metabolism. Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 42157. DOI: 10.1038/srep42157.|
|↑2||J Inkol, S Hocker, A Mutsaers. Combination Therapy with Cannabidiol and Chemotherapeutics in Canine Urothelial Carcinoma Cells. PLoS ONE (2021). doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0255591.|