Essential Oils

Essential Oils & Skin Cancer 

Updated on 2 September 2020 • 4 minute read
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Overview 

Skin cancer refers to the abnormal growth of skin cells. 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are three main types of cancer: (1)

  1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – is the most common form.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – is the second most common form. 
  3. Melanoma – known as the most severe type because of its ability to spread. 

You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer cells by avoiding excess exposure to UV radiation, using sunblock when you’re outside, and avoiding tanning beds. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, some risk factors include: (2)

  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Fair skin
  • History of sunburns
  • Family or personal history of skin cancer
  • Living in sunny locations
  • Precancerous skin growths
  • Weak immune function 

Skin cancer treatment options will depend on the location, type, size, and depth of the growth. 

Small cancers that are on the surface of the skin may only require removal and biopsy. 

Some other possible options include: 

  • Cryotherapy 
  • Radiation 
  • Chemotherapy 

Are there other natural options for treating skin cancer? 

Maybe. 

Thanks to limited clinical studies and case reports, some people believe that essential oils might help. Still, there is currently no concrete or conclusive evidence to support this claim. 

Essential oils aren’t a cure-all, and by themselves are likely not an effective treatment for skin cancer. 

They may help manage cancer treatment side effects while also improving mental health as you deal with your prognosis. 

Always consult with your doctor before using any essential oil for skin cancer. 

 

Essential Oils As A Natural Remedy

Essential oils (EOs) are highly concentrated plant compounds containing active chemicals known to support the body’s healing capabilities. 

Eastern healing disciplines like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine frequently use essential oils and herbs to bring about physical and mental/emotional balance and harmony. 

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses essential oils for therapeutic purposes. 

Research shows that certain essential oils can boost the immune system and even facilitate increased white blood cell production. 

Many EOs are also highly anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving

Cancer patients may do well with incorporating aromatherapy to supplement their medical treatment plan because EOs can also help with: 

Lavender, sandalwood, clary sage, and bergamot can help increase relaxation. 

Lemon, peppermint, and ginger may help with treatment-induced nausea. 

Lavender, vetiver, and ylang-ylang could help you sleep better. 

Turmeric, ginger, and frankincense may reduce inflammation. 

EOs may also help with certain skin conditions like: 

 

Frankincense Essential Oil & Cancer

As mentioned above, there’s little hard evidence to support the claim that essential oils alone can definitively help treat skin cancer. 

Of the handful of studies on the subject, some are animal studies, and some are conducted on Petri dishes that don’t necessarily mimic the body’s delicate internal environment. 

From what we know so far, it appears that frankincense resin may increase anticancer activity.

 Frankincense oil (Boswellia carteri, Boswellia sacra, Boswellia serrata) is extracted from Boswellia trees’ gum resin. 

This extract contains boswellic acid, which reduces inflammation and appears to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis in colorectal cancer. (3) 

Here’s what the research says about Frankincense and skin cancer

  • A 2019 animal study published in Oncotarget found that frankincense essential oil produced cytotoxicity (toxic effects) in mice’s melanoma cells. It also inhibited tumor growth and reduced tumor size. (4)
  • A 2013 case report published in OA Alternative Medicine discusses the case of a single male patient with two Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) growths on his arm and chest. Local and topical application of frankincense essential oil happened several times a day for 20 weeks. Biopsies performed before and after the treatment revealed a total resolution of the BCC on the arm and a significant improvement on the chest after application. A notable increase in cancer cell death was also reported. (5)

 

Here’s what the research says about Frankincense and other types of cancer

  • A 2011 study published in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine found that Boswellia sacra essential oil caused tumor cell death in breast cancer cells. The study concluded that future clinical studies are urgently needed to evaluate the efficacy of Frankincense oil as a therapeutic agent for treating breast cancer. (6) 
  • Another study published in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine found that Boswellia carteri essential oil suppressed cell viability in bladder cancer cells. Comprehensive genetic analysis confirmed that this essential oil suppressed cell line growth while also inducing cancer cell death. The study concluded that frankincense oil appears to distinguish between cancerous and normal bladder cells. (7)
  • A 2012 study found that Boswellia sacra essential oil caused human pancreatic cancer death in Petri dish cultures. The study concluded that “Boswellia sacra gum resins might be a useful alternative therapeutic agent for treating patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, an aggressive cancer with poor prognosis.” (8) 
  • A 2009 study published in Cancer Research found that a type of Boswellic acid known as acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) inhibited prostate cancer tumor growth. (9) 

 

Safety Concerns 

As mentioned, essential oils shouldn’t be used as a standalone treatment for skin cancer because the research is not conclusive. 

You may use EOs as a supplement to medical treatment because they can help improve cancer treatment side effects, reduce anxiety and insomnia, and improve mental health and quality of life. 

When used safely and mindfully EOs typically offer little to no side effects though they sometimes happen. 

Common side effects are skin irritation, allergic reactions, breathing trouble, and increased sensitivity to sunlight after topical exposure. 

Perform a patch test before using oils topically and wait 24-48 hours in case of a reaction. 

If you experience any discomfort or adverse effects stop using the oil immediately. 

Research the contraindications of each essential oil you’re going to use as some oils aren’t suitable for babies, young children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, or for people with underlying conditions like high blood pressure or epilepsy. 

Essential oils are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), so there is no real system of quality control. 

Many of the products on the market are either diluted or contaminated with solvents and other chemicals. 

Always choose high-quality, certified organic, therapeutic grade EOs to ensure maximum medicinal benefits. 

 

How To Use EOs for Health & Wellness

The topical application of EOs should always be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil. 

Stick to 2-3 drops of EO per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil. 

Blend oils together to amplify their potency and create your own lotions and salves.  

Add the mixture to a rollerball for portable application anytime. 

You can also use a diffuser and inhale the active chemicals. 

Or use an inhaler for a more concentrated dose. 

 

 

 

References: 

(1) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common

(2) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/skin-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20377605

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246525/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6544398/

(5) Fung, KM & Suhail, Mahmoud & McClendon, B & Woolley, CL & Young, DG & Lin, Hk. (2013). Management of basal cell carcinoma of the skin using frankincense (Boswellia sacra) essential oil: A case report. OA Alternative Medicine. 1. 10.13172/2052-7845-1-2-656. 

(6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22171782/

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664784/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538159/

(9) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19567671/

 

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