PSA: Alternative Medicine in Place of Cancer Treatment Can Be Deadly – Lifehacker Australia

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 4:04 am

Cancer is scary. Chemo and radiation are scary. Herbal medicines and special diets seem friendly and comforting by comparison, but we now have clear evidence that people who use alternative treatments for cancer are more likely to die.

Its one of those duh, but we had to check it out studies: researchers from the Yale School of Medicine followed 281 people who used alternative medicine, without any conventional treatments like surgery or chemo, and compared their survival rates to controls who had the same health status, type of cancer, and other factors. Those controls were far more likely to still be alive after five years than the people who chose to only use alternative medicine. As youd expect, the difference was starkest among people with fast-acting cancers.

The study was observational, so technically it cant 100 percent prove that alternative medicine was responsible for the deaths, but the researchers controlled for just about every plausible factor that might have affected survival. Even NHS Choices, which does very thorough and skeptical breakdowns of research in the news, concludes that this one is pretty clear-cut.

You and I might think skipping real cancer treatment is a terrible idea (we are agreed on that, right?) but theres definitely a market for alternative treatments. Most people use them as complementary medicine, for example getting acupuncture in hopes that it will tone down the nausea they get from chemo.

But theres a small industry around selling bogus cancer cures to people who cant afford real treatment, or who just believe claims that supplements and the like do a better job. Earlier this year, the FDA sent warning letters to makers of 65 products illegally sold as cancer cures.

The products the FDA identified are the tip of an iceberg: you cant legally sell a supplement by saying it will cure cancer, but theres nothing stopping you from writing an article to argue that a supplement cures cancer. The FDA watches out for anything that crosses the line into fraud, but theyre playing a frustrating game of whack-a-mole. So the stuff is still out there. Take, for example, the people who believe against all odds in the healing power of apricot kernels.

Nor can you cure cancer with homeopathy or naturopathy, although some practitioners will say or strongly imply that they can (as above). Dont buy into these obvious lies. In the awful event that you or somebody you love gets cancer, youre free to consider a second opinionbut make sure its from an actual doctor.

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PSA: Alternative Medicine in Place of Cancer Treatment Can Be Deadly - Lifehacker Australia

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