It may be the most devastating diagnosis a doctor can deliver: “You have cancer.” Cancer causes more than half a million deaths each year in the U.S. and it can also lead some people in a desperate search for treatment that ventures beyond the bounds of accepted medicine. Hundreds of alternative medicine treatments for cancer have been touted through the years, many preying on the desperation of cancer victims. The American Cancer Society and medical professionals have debunked the following alternative cancer treatments. Some are outright dangerous. But they all provide false hope — and that’s a cruel fate for someone in this condition, reason enough to steer clear of these quack treatments.
5. Ear Candling
Some alternative medicine supporters claim ear candling is a remedy for many maladies. Here’s how it supposedly works: the patient lies on his or her side. A practitioner sticks a candle-shaped beeswax cone in their ear and lights it; the candle supposedly creates a suction that draws out earwax and other toxins. Some advocates promote the practice as a treatment for cancer. While ear candling (aka thermal-auricular therapy)
is an ancient practice in China and some other cultures, modern medicine has shown it is ineffective at even removing earwax. And it’s certainly an unproven treatment for cancer. Many people who have tried this have suffered painful burns to their ear canal or eardrum. Fighting cancer is bad enough without dealing with other self-inflicted wounds.
4. Shark Cartilage
A long-standing myth holds that sharks do not get cancer; they actually do. Yet that myth has led to a multimillion-dollar U.S. market in shark cartilage, which is basically the dried and powdered bones of a shark. It has been touted as not just a treatment for cancer, but as a supplement for joint health as well. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has labeled shark cartilage a fake cancer “cure.” Even worse, one University of Miami study found shark cartilage contained a high level of a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). That should be enough to scare anyone away from using this supplement.
3. Urine Therapy
Urine therapy is exactly what it sounds like — a person uses his or her own urine for supposed therapeutic benefit. Remember, the body excretes urine to help cleanse toxins, so putting those same toxins right back in your body as a supposed health benefit has always sounded like quackery to the vast majority of medical professionals. As MedicineNet.com notes, it’s true that cancer patients’ urine contain tumor proteins; urine therapy holds that drinking urine or rubbing it on the skin will help the body develop antibodies for the cancer. If that sounds dubious, we’ll leave the final word up to the American Cancer Society: “Available scientific evidence does not support claims that urine or urea given in any form is helpful for cancer patients.”
2. Gerson Therapy
In the early 20th century, a German scientist named Max Gerson proposed that an imbalance of sodium to potassium in the body created cancer. To fight that imbalance, he suggested a low-sodium diet full of organic fruits and vegetables. That actually sounds healthy — until you consider that the diet calls for juicing roughly 20 pounds of crushed fruit and vegetables every day. The Gerson regimen also requires several coffee enemas each day. All this is supposed to cleanse the body, and allow it to recognize and fight cancer cells.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reports that studies of Gerson Therapy have shown no anti-cancer effect, and that “Coffee enemas can cause infections, dangerous electrolyte deficiencies, and death.” An American Cancer Society says that so-called “nutritional cancer cures” such as Gerson, Hoxsey herbal therapy, Manner metabolic therapy, and Kelley metabolic therapy should be avoided.
1. Amygdalin (Laetrile)
Amygdalin is a substance found in the seeds of several fruits, notably apricots. A synthetic version of amygdalin was patented in 1961 under the name laetrile. It was heavily promoted in alternative circles as a cancer cure until the FDA stepped up in the mid-1970s and restricted interstate trade of the substance. But laetrile has resurfaced on the Internet in recent years, sometimes marketed as Vitamin B-17. Not only have studies shown laetrile to be ineffective in treating cancer, those using it are at risk of cyanide poisoning (apricot seeds contain a cyanogenic glycoside). A study a few years ago in a cancer clinical journal called laetrile, “unquestionably the slickest, most sophisticated and certainly most remunerative cancer quack promotion in medical history.”
More: 187 Fake Cancer Cures To Avoid
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has compiled a list of 187 fake cancer “cures” that people should avoid. The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” certainly applies here. The Internet has opened up a limitless market for unscrupulous snake oil salesman to peddle their products. Always consult your physician before trying any alternative medicine treatment.