We were concerned to see an article in the Daily Express today asking “Do cancer alternatives really work?” This piece contains factual and scientific inaccuracies, as well as misleading information that could potentially cause harm to people with cancer. We have written a short letter to the Express with our concerns (Edit: which they have declined to publish – see end of post KA), and wanted to address the claims made in the article in full here.
We completely understand that people would like to try everything to help themselves after a diagnosis of cancer, but strongly urge any patient considering complementary or alternative therapy to talk to their cancer doctor or specialist nurse about the safety and effectiveness of such treatments. Some are not safe and can cause serious side effects.
Furthermore, we spend a great deal of time and money doing research to find out what treatments work best (or don’t work) for people with cancer. It is disheartening to see health advice or even therapies being recommended with very little or no evidence to show that they have any benefit for patients.
To highlight specific flaws in this article:
Diet: The article makes claims for the cancer-fighting properties of a number of foods, including avocados, garlic, tomatoes and beetroot (which has apparently “been shown to kill cancer cells”) and also mentions the power of “antioxidants”. While we would agree that it’s important for everyone – including cancer patients – to eat a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables where possible, there is no good evidence to suggest that any particular foodstuff can really treat cancer. The writer makes the mistake of using evidence from experiments with purified vegetable extracts carried out on cells grown in the laboratory to suggest that certain fruits or vegetables can treat cancer in patients. This is not a plausible link. We’ve addressed this issue several times on the blog, including here and here, and have also taken an in-depth look at antioxidants and cancer in two parts.