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21st of August 2018


Alternative Cancer Treatments May Be Bad for Your Health


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Alternative Cancer Treatments May Be Bad for Your Health

People who used herbs, acupuncture and other complementary treatments tended to die earlier than those who didn’t.

Nicholas Bakalar

By Nicholas Bakalar

July 23, 2018Image

Herbs, acupuncture and other so-called complementary treatments for cancer may not be completely innocuous.

A new study has found that many cancer patients treat these nostrums not as a supplement to conventional treatment, but as an alternative. This, the researchers say, can be dangerous.

The observational analysis, in JAMA Oncology, used data on 258 complementary medicine users and 1,032 people in a control group. Complementary therapies included herbs, vitamins, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, yoga, acupuncture and others.

People who used complementary treatments were more often women, younger, privately insured and of higher socioeconomic status. They did not delay the start of conventional treatment any longer than others, but they had higher rates of refusal of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone treatments. They also had lower five-year survival rates, and more than double the risk of death.

The complementary treatments did no harm when conventional treatment was carried out simultaneously.

“Cancer treatment is scary,” said the senior author, James B. Yu, an associate professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale. “It’s a human response to seek out therapies that promise no side effects and only benefits. We need to listen to patients, and help them integrate these therapies with conventional therapy.

“Complementary medicines are supposed to help you endure treatment, but some believe they will help cure you. We found no evidence of that.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: Alternative Medicine: Risks When Used as a Substitute. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


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