This is a non-exhaustive list of alternative treatments that have been promoted to treat or prevent cancer in humans but which lack scientific and medical evidence of effectiveness. In many cases, there is scientific evidence that the alleged treatments are not effective. Unlike accepted cancer treatments, treatments lacking in evidence of efficacy are generally ignored or avoided by the medical community and are often pseudoscientific.
Alternative health systems
Homeopathic medicine bottle and box, marked 'RHUS TOX'
Homeopathic remedies – ineffective for treating cancer
Aromatherapy – the use of fragrant substances, such as essential oils, in the belief that smelling them will positively affect health. There is some evidence that aromatherapy improves general well-being, but it has also been promoted for its ability to fight diseases, including cancer. The American Cancer Society states "available scientific evidence does not support claims that aromatherapy is effective in preventing or treating cancer".
Ayurvedic medicine – a 5,000-year-old system of traditional medicine which originated on the Indian subcontinent. According to Cancer Research UK "there is no scientific evidence to prove that Ayurvedic medicine can treat or cure cancer or any other disease".
German New Medicine – a popular medical system devised by Ryke Geerd Hamer (1935–2017), in which all disease is seen as deriving from emotional shock and mainstream medicine is regarded as a conspiracy promulgated by Jews. There is no evidence to support its claims and no biological reason why it should work.
Greek cancer cure – A putative cancer cure invented and promoted by microbiologist Hariton-Tzannis Alivizatos. It consisted of intravenous injections of a fluid for which Aliviatos would not reveal the formula. The American Cancer Society concluded that "there is no evidence that any aspect of the diagnostic test nor the treatment... are effective in the treatment of cancer." In addition they state "Nor is there any evidence that.. the intravenous injections are safe."
Herbalism – a whole-body approach to promoting health, in which substances are derived from entire plants so as not to disturb what herbalists believe is the delicate chemistry of the plant as a whole. According to Cancer Research UK, "there is currently no strong evidence from studies in people that herbal remedies can treat, prevent or cure cancer".
Holistic medicine – a general term for an approach to medicine which encompasses mental and spiritual aspects, and which is manifested in sundry complementary and alternative methods. According to the American Cancer Society, "available scientific evidence does not support claims that these complementary and alternative methods, when used without mainstream or conventional medicine, are effective in treating cancer or any other disease".
Homeopathy – a pseudoscientific system of medicine based on ultra-diluted substances. Some proponents promote homeopathy as a cancer cure; however, according to the American Cancer Society "there is no reliable evidence showing that homeopathic remedies can treat cancer in humans".
Native American healing – shamanistic forms of medicine traditionally practiced by some indigenous American peoples and which have been claimed as being capable of curing human diseases, including cancer. The American Cancer Society say that while its supportive, community aspects might improve general well-being, "available scientific evidence does not support claims that Native American healing can cure cancer or any other disease".
Naturopathy – a system of alternative medicine based on a belief in energy forces in the body and an avoidance of conventional medicine; it is promoted as a treatment for cancer and other ailments. According to the American Cancer Society, "scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can cure cancer or any other disease".
Alkaline diet – a restrictive diet of non-acidfoods, such as that proposed by Edgar Cayce (1877–1945), based on the claim this will affect the pH of the body generally, so reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, "there is no evidence to support any of these claims."
Breuss diet – a diet based on vegetable juice and tea devised by Rudolf Breuss (1899–1990), who claimed it could cure cancer. Physicians have said that, in common with other "cancer diets", there is no evidence of effectiveness and some risk of harm.
Budwig protocol (or Budwig diet) – an "anti-cancer" diet developed in the 1950s by Johanna Budwig (1908–2003). The diet is rich in flaxseed oil mixed with cottage cheese, and emphasizes meals high in fruit, vegetables, and fiber; it avoids sugar, animal fats, salad oil, meats, butter, and especially margarine. Cancer Research UK say, "there is no reliable evidence to show that the Budwig diet [...] helps people with cancer".
Fasting and intermittent fasting – not eating or drinking for a period – a practice which has been claimed by some alternative medicine practitioners to help fight cancer, perhaps by "starving" tumors. However, according to the American Cancer Society, "available scientific evidence does not support claims that fasting is effective for preventing or treating cancer in humans". Professional societies in France and the United Kingdom reached similar conclusions.
Hallelujah diet – a restrictive "biblical" diet based on raw food, claimed by its inventor to have cured his cancer. Stephen Barrett has written on Quackwatch: "Although low-fat, high-fiber diets can be healthful, the Hallelujah Diet is unbalanced and can lead to serious deficiencies." Harriet Hall at Science-Based Medicine agrees, adding the diet "makes no sense".
Kousmine diet – a restrictive diet devised by Catherine Kousmine (1904–1992) which emphasized fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses and the use of vitamin supplements. There is no evidence that the diet is an effective cancer treatment.
Macrobiotic diet – a restrictive diet based on grains and unrefined foods, and promoted by some as a preventative and cure for cancer. Cancer Research UK states "we don't support the use of macrobiotic diets for people with cancer".
McDougall diet – a restrictive low-fat, starch based vegan diet devised by John A. McDougall. The diet is low in fat, high in fiber and contains no cholesterol. McDougall has promoted the diet as an alternative treatment for a number of chronic disorders, including cancer. However, there is no scientific evidence that McDougall's diet is effective.
Moerman Therapy – a highly restrictive diet devised by Cornelis Moerman (1893–1988). Its effectiveness is supported by anecdote only – there is no evidence of its worth as a cancer treatment.
Superfood – a marketing term applied to certain foods with supposed health-giving properties. Cancer Research UK note that superfoods are often promoted as having an ability to prevent or cure diseases, including cancer; they caution, "a healthy, balanced and varied diet can help to reduce the risk of cancer but it is unlikely that any single food will make a major difference on its own."
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