Patients with cancer who use alternative medicine (AM) without conventional chemotherapy (CCT) may have worse clinical outcomes and greater risk of death, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.1
Researchers identified 281 patients with breast, colorectal, lung, or prostate cancer who chose AM over CCT, and matched them 2:1 with 560 patients with cancer who received CCT. There were no significant differences in baseline characteristics.
At the median follow-up of 66 months, patients who received AM had a significantly worse 5-year survival rate of 54.7% (95% CI, 47.5%-61.3%) vs 78.3% (95% CI, 74.2%-81.8%) in patients who received CCT (hazard ratio [HR], 2.21; 95% CI, 1.72-2.83; P < .001).
Patients in the AM group vs the CCT group had significantly worse 5-year survival in the following disease subtypes: breast (58.1% vs 86.6%, respectively), lung (19.9% vs 41.3%), and colorectal cancer (32.7% vs 87.8%); this was not true, however, for patients with prostate cancer (86.2% vs 91.5%, P = .36).
Patients with breast or lung cancer, fewer comorbidities, more advanced cancer, higher income and education, or who were younger or female were more likely to use AM.
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The authors concluded that “improved communication between patients and caregivers and greater scrutiny of the use of AM for the initial treatment of cancer is needed.”
- Johnson SB, Park HS, Gross CP, Yu JB. Use of alternative medicine for cancer and its impact on survival. J Nat Cancer Instit. 2017 Aug 10. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djx145 [Epub ahead of print]