Treating cancer with alternative medicine — it’s dangerous

alternative medicine cancer

As I have mentioned before, I occasionally answer questions on Quora regarding alternative medicine treatments for cancer. Of course, there are few, if any, alternative “medicines” that have been shown to treat cancer effectively in large, randomized, double-blind clinical trials. If they actually worked, we’d just call it medicine.

Most of the answers are supported by scientific evidence — alternative medicine treatments for cancer have been shown to not work or have not been shown to work. Either way, it would be unethical or even immoral for anyone to recommend these unscientific treatments.

Of course, a lot of people want to push the claim that cannabis cures cancer. It doesn’t (see Note 1).

A paper was published a few years ago that examined the survivability of individuals with curable cancers that refused conventional cancer treatments (usually surgery plus adjuvant therapies like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or immunotherapy) and chose alternative medicine. We will get to that article, but spoiler alert — alternative medicine doesn’t work for cancer and may be dangerous.

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Vaping safety — what does science say about electronic cigarettes

vaping safety

I wanted to go back to vaping, and the safety of electronic cigarettes (EC, to save my typing fingers). ECs were originally developed as a tool to quit cigarette smoking, which is factually linked to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. And if that’s all they did, then this article would be very short. But we really need to look at the science of the safety of vaping, and that’s going to take a lot of writing.

ECs have become much more than a tool to end smoking, they have evolved into a popular subculture phenomenon known as the “vaping community” that, in many respects, seems to parallel the marijuana advocates. The vaping community continues to push a belief that ECs are safer than traditional cigarettes, have little health risk to the vaper (electronic cigarette smoker), and is much more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes or cigars.

One of the most ironic and amusing stories about ECs is that Jenny McCarthy, the antivaccination expert who thinks that all ingredients in vaccines are dangerous, has become an advocate for vaping. I bought a brand new, upgraded version 4.7, nuclear-powered irony meter, and it just broke. Thanks, Jenny.

During the 2022 midterm election, California voters decided to support a ban on flavored tobacco products, including flavored electronic cigarettes. That’s a step in the right direction to keep people, especially children and teens, from thinking that it’s like candy.

What are the dangers of electronic cigarettes? Are there any at all? Has the safety of vaping ever been adequately researched? This article is going to dig into it. And we’re going to have a boatload of fun from commenters because I have got a feeling that their beliefs matter more than science with respect to the overall safety of vaping.

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New systematic review says HPV vaccine is effective — of course

HPV vaccine effective

I enjoy repeating myself about the HPV vaccine, but another systematic review says it is effective in preventing HPV infections. And when we can prevent HPV infections, we can prevent a long list of cancers.

I know some of you think that your blueberry kale smoothies prevent cancer, but there are really only a handful of ways to prevent cancer. The HPV vaccine is one of the most effective methods to prevent cancer.

Let’s review HPV, the HPV vaccine, and this new systematic review.

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Cell phones and brain cancer — is this still a thing?

cell phones brain cancer

I thought that this disappeared long ago, but I guess the belief that cell phones cause brain cancer is still a thing. It doesn’t, and we have science on our side. But still, the myth endures.

This article is going to review a few studies that debunk the claim that cell phones are linked to brain cancer. I know, most of you already know this, but it’s always good to have a science-based article that helps you when your crazy uncle makes that claim.

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Vitamin C does not prevent or treat cancer — let’s end this myth

vitamin c cancer

One of the frequently made claims from the alternative medicine world is that vitamin C prevents cancer. Or cures cancer. But is there any real science behind vitamin C and cancer?

Of course, there are over hundreds of different cancers, each with a different etiology, pathophysiology, and prognosis, so it’s rather difficult to believe that vitamin C has that much effect on any of those cancers. But the claims, and their adherents, persist despite the lack of robust evidence supporting these claims.

Frankly, there are just a handful of ways to prevent cancer. One of those ways, eating a balanced diet, implies consuming appropriate amounts of nutrients, like vitamin C, I suppose. But does it mean that taking a handful of vitamin C tablets has some beneficial effect on cancer prevention or treatment? Well, let’s take a look.

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Aluminum antiperspirants and breast cancer? Probably no link

aluminum antiperspirants

Lately, I keep seeing commercials that push aluminum-free deodorants and antiperspirants, and I was wondering if I missed some important health issue that is causing some sort of epidemic across the world. Now, those who debunk anti-vaccine tropes know all about the mythical dangers of aluminum.

You can assume when I hear claims about aluminum in deodorants that I’m going to squint my skeptical eyes and see if there is anything to it.

Many of the claims centers on breast cancer, although some people make claims about autoimmune diseases or kidney diseases are linked to the aluminum in deodorants. I’m going to stick with breast cancer for this article because that’s the focus of many of the claims. And it’s a deep rabbit hole that I had to climb into.

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Keto diet – what does the scientific evidence say about its effectiveness?

keto diet

As an ancient dinosaur, I’ve seen every diet fad from the popcorn diet to the South Beach diet to the paleo diet to the keto diet. Most of these fads are based on almost no good science, though they try to bring really bad science to convince themselves or others to “buy” into it, sometimes literally.

I’m sure that the ancient Romans had some diet fad diet that the aristocracy followed to keep themselves healthy – oh wait, the Roman upper class followed the Mediterranean diet, which may be one diet fad that stood the test of time and science.

Outside of the aforementioned Mediterranean diet, which includes whole grains, olive oil, seafood, legumes, and nuts, most of these diets lack robust scientific evidence supporting their usefulness in weight loss or maintaining some unbiased standard of health. But they certainly make a lot of money for those promoting them. The worldwide diet management market is estimated to be over $192 billion in 2019.  Wait, what? Obviously, I’m in the wrong business.

One of the current fads is the keto diet, which is all the rage among those looking to lose weight, improve their health, and, I’m sure, prevent cancer. Before someone thinks it really prevents cancer, it does not. In fact, it may increase the risk of cancer. But that’s another story for another day.

Let’s get into this keto diet fad. Is it supported by any robust, repeated, published evidence? Or, like most diet fads, is it mostly supported by testimony and anecdotes? 

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High fructose corn syrup — debunking the myths with science

high fructose corn syrup

People demonize food “chemicals,” like high fructose corn syrup, all of the time — see monosodium glutamate, as just one example. And there’s high fructose corn syrup, a sugar that is blamed for everything from cancer to diabetes to climate change. OK, maybe not climate change.

High fructose corn syrup is just sugar, but because it has a complicated name, it must be bad. It’s part of the “chemophobia,” the fear of anything that sounds like a chemical.

The so-called Food Babe has made a lot of money endorsing a belief that all chemicals are evil. Of course, such claims ignore the simple fact that all life, the air, and water are made of chemicals.

They want us to believe that man-made chemicals are more dangerous than “natural” chemicals, but that betrays several things about science:

  1. Many “natural” chemicals are dangerous.
  2. Those “natural” chemicals didn’t evolve for the benefit of humans, so they are not inherently better for humans.
  3. Nature isn’t always better.

And high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is considered one of the evil “chemicals” that are destroying humanity. But is it? Let’s answer that question.

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Bananas do not prevent cancer – another internet myth debunked

I wrote this article many years ago, debunking the claim that bananas prevent cancer, and it remains the most popular article I’ve ever written. It probably gets so much traffic because of the ongoing memes about how bananas will cure every cancer known to man. 

Too many individuals see these memes on Twitter and Facebook, they accept them as scientific facts. They rarely are. That’s why critical thinking is necessary. 

But if a meme is going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, then that claim ought to be backed by extraordinary evidence. But this wild belief about bananas is not even supported by ordinary evidence. It is supported by zero evidence.

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46,000 HPV-related cancers annually in the USA — get the vaccine!

HPV related cancers

There are just a handful of ways to reduce your risk of cancer— one of the most important is to get the HPV vaccine to prevent HPV-associated cancers with the HPV vaccine (see Note 1).

Too many people who discuss the HPV vaccine, especially among the anti-vaccine religion, tend to focus on HPV-related cervical cancer. But HPV is linked to several dangerous and deadly cancers, and a new report examines the details of those cancers. 

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