Cancer Survival Takes a Hit with Alternative Medicine -Study shows eschewing conventional therapy is risky

Cancer Survival Takes a Hit with Alternative Medicine -Study shows eschewing conventional therapy is risky

The 840 patients assessed had a median follow-up of 66 months. The alternative-medicine cohort had a significantly worse 5-year survival rate (54.7% versus 78.3%.


With respect to the individual types of cancer, alternative medicine was associated with significantly worse 5-year survival rates for breast cancer (58.1% versus 86.6%, P<0.001); lung cancer (19.9% versus 41.3%, P<0.001); and colorectal cancer (32.7% versus 79.4%, P<0.001). The 5-year survival rate did not differ significantly for prostate cancer (86.2% versus 91.5%, P=0.36).


The study and control groups did not differ significantly with respect to cancer type, age, clinical stage, comorbidity score, insurance type, race, or year of diagnosis.



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8 Replies

  • This is an interesting article, Neil. I'm not surprised that the association between prostate cancer survival and alternative medicine was not significant compared with the other cancers since many prostate cancers are indolent and, like CLL, are watch and wait at diagnosis. The other cancers (breast, lung, and colorectal) generally require treatment of some sort at diagnosis. I work in cancer epidemiology and have CLL and will share this with my colleagues.

  • I thought exactly the same as you about the prostate cancer results and almost stated that in my post. This recent article from Simon Chapman

    , Emeritus Professor in Public Health, University of Sydney does a good job of putting the current screening and intervention challenges of prostate cancer into perspective:

    We desperately need a better process for determining which prostate cancer cases need early intervention and which are best monitored...


  • 2 questions: how do you measure quality of life and what kind of alternative medicine?

  • More web page links on this subject..

    Yale School of Medicine

    Using alternative medicine only for cancer linked to lower survival rate:-

    Medscape 2017 August 11

    Alternative Medicine' for Cancer Ups Death Risk.

    It's rare but it happens: a patient with a curable cancer rejects conventional medicine and initially chooses to receive only alternative treatments.

    Now researchers from the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, find that this choice is associated with a 2.5-fold higher risk for death compared with conventional cancer treatment.

    No alternative medicine ever disappears when shown to be ineffective: The case of laetrile.

    The vast majority of what is known as “alternative medicine” is quackery.

    The “pros and cons of integrative medicine.”

  • Great references Dick!

    I particularly liked the quote in the second to last reference - ¨To quote a cliche that is true and modified to my own view of medicine, there is no such thing as “alternative medicine.” There is medicine that has been scientifically demonstrated to work. There is medicine that has been scientifically demonstrated not to work. And there is medicine that has not been shown to work. What makes up “alternative” medicine consists of the latter two, because once a medicine is shown scientifically to work it ceases to be “alternative.”¨


  • Great references....

    Just to add what Dr. Hamblin said along those lines...

    The real problem with alternative medicine is that once any treatment is shown beyond doubt to be effective, it ceases to be 'alternative' and becomes just like any other part of medical knowledge. That means that 'alternative medicine' must consist entirely of unproven treatment.


  • Or as I've heard "what do they call alternative medicine that's been shown to work? Medicine."

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