Scientists find how cannabis THC may prevent colon cancer

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In a new study, researchers found that treatment with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, prevented the development of colon cancer in mice.

They found that THC suppressed inflammation in the colon, preventing the onset of cancers caused by a carcinogen.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of South Carolina.

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are caused by unrestrained inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Patients with IBD are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.

The incidence of IBD is increasing globally. This suggests that the risk of cancers that are linked to IBD also are going to increase.

In fact, the risk of colon and rectal cancers is increasing at an alarming rate among young and middle-aged adults in the United States and the cause remains unknown.

Thus, understanding the mechanisms of IBD and developing effective drugs to prevent IBD and associated cancers are crucial.

The researchers are world-renowned for their work studying the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids. The cannabinoids act through two receptors known as CB1 and CB2.

The CB1 receptor is expressed in the brain where THC activation causes psychoactive effects. The second receptor, CB2, is expressed mainly on the immune cells, meaning that activation of CB2 receptors does not trigger psychoactivity.

The team says the fact that they were able to show that treatment with THC prevents inflammation in the colon and at the same time inhibits the development of colon cancer supports the notion that inflammation and colon cancer are closely linked.

Thus, in patients who are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer, THC or other anti-inflammatory agents may be beneficial.

One author of the study is Prakash Nagarkatti, Ph.D.

The study is published in iScience.

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