Can CBD Cause Cancer?

Updated: Jul 5, 2019

Hello everyone, I have stumbled onto an interesting piece of research today that looked into whether or not CBD and CBDV are carcinogenic. Both of these molecules are cannabinoids meaning that they come from the cannabis plant. The FDA has not determined a ruling on how CBD should be treated when being sold. Last year there was plenty of buzz around cannabis and its potential uses in the treatment of cancer, specifically CBD. At the end of 2018 research was published that told a different story.

Research was published in the US National Library of Medicine in the Springer Archives of Toxicology Journal that performed studies on CBD and CBDV. CBD has been discussed for its numerous benefits in how is stimulates signals the endocannabinoid system to reduce inflammation, reduce tumor size and progression, and manage neurological disorders. CBDV is another cannabinoid being developed to help treat seizures in adults.

They studied the effect of CBD on liver and epithelial cells and measured the amount of broken strands of DNA and misshaped cells that resulted after CBD and CBDV were introduced to them. The concentrations of the molecules in the sample were kept similar to that of what is found in the blood of consumers. The presence of misshaped cells and broken DNA stands indicate direct DNA damage was occurring in the cells being studied. They found that the results indicated that CBD and CBDV correlated with increased concentrations of these biomarkers indicating that the molecules directly damaged the DNA of these cells' chromosomes. They also found that the damage was worse the higher the concentration of CBD or CBDV and that the metabolites of these molecules had higher rate of this occurring than did CBD and CBDV before being broken down. That means that after the cells broke down the CBD and CBDV, the remaining fragments actually caused more damage to cells than the original molecules.

It is important to note that smoking anything releases harmful chemicals that cause direct damage to DNA. The damage being caused in this study is attributed to the oxidative properties of these molecules although previous studies have described CBD as having antioxidant studies.

Although smoking does cause these changes in the cells of our bodies, this study did not focus on the effects of smoking CBD and CBDV. The model of the experiment focused on using liver cells and some from the mouth to simulate someone eating them because it is the more common way to consume them. It is also important to note that the study was performed with cells that originated from tumor cells. The scientists explained that the cells do act differently from normal cells in the human body and that more study needs to take place to better understand the effects of CBD and CBDV on cells.

Another interesting thought is why the study was performed with cells that originated from tumors to begin with. When publishing research studies researchers often use a title that is compelling and sometimes that is enough for people to share it without considering if the research is reliable to make conclusions about it. The research in this example is interesting and it adds a unique perspective of CBD that should be investigated further. I hope to bring more examples of intriguing research like this soon, and I hope that it will be helpful to those of you trying to sort through the information about CBD as we continue to see it on the shelves of stores.


Russo, C, (2018, Oct 19) Low doses of widely consumed cannabinoids (cannabidiol and cannabidivarin) cause DNA damage and chromosomal aberrations in human-derived cells, Retrieved from