People who use homeopathy, herbal remedies and other alternative therapies as part of their cancer treatment are twice as likely to die from the disease as those who use conventional treatment only, researchers have warned.
The study from Yale University suggested this is because cancer patients using complementary therapies are much more likely to refuse some or all recommended treatment, resulting in a poorer prognosis.
Previous studies have shown some alternative therapies, including massage and acupuncture, can improve quality of life and wellbeing for cancer patients and help them to relax or feel in control.
Between 48% and 88% of patients are thought to use complementary therapy as an element of their treatment, the Independent reported.
“Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about the role of complementary therapies,” said Dr Skyler Johnson, lead author of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology. “Although they may be used to support patients experiencing symptoms from cancer treatment, it looks as though they are either being marketed, or understood to be effective [as] cancer treatments.”
The study suggested these side-effects, and mistrust of major pharmaceutical companies, can make the benefits of alternative therapies seem like a credible option for some patients.