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Book Review

American Cancer Society's Guide to
Complementary and Alternative Cancer Methods (2000)

Reviewed by: Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The American Cancer Society's Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Methods discusses more than 100 methods that it characterizes as "complementary" (used along with standard treatments, often with the hope of providing symptomatic relief) and/or "alternative" (used instead of standard methods). Each entry provides a brief description and overview followed by information on the claims, treatment form, history behind it, evidence for or against it, and references. People searching for "miracle cures" won't find any listed, but the book offers reliable advice on what to avoid.

The book states that there is no scientific evidence that any of the following can cure or influence the course of any cancer:

Acupuncture, aloe vera, alsihum, amalgam removal, antineoplaston therapy, applied kinesiology, aromatherapy, astragalus, aveloz, bee venom therapy (apitherapy), bioenergetic therapy, biofeedback, black cohosh, black walnut, bodywork, CanCell, cancer salves, cassava (tapioca), castor oil, cat's claw, cell therapy, centella (gotu kola), chaparral, chelation therapy, chiropractic, chlorella, colon therapy, comfrey, craniosacral therapy, crystals, cupping, curanderismo, cymatic therapy, DHEA, Di Bella therapy, DMSO, electromagnetic therapy, enzyme therapy, Essiac tea, evening primrose oil, faith healing, fasting, feng shui, flaxseed, flower remedies, Fu Zhen therapy, germanium, Gerson therapy, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, goldenseal, grape cure, Greek cancer cure, guided imagery, HANSI, holistic medicine, homeopathy, Hoxsey herbal treatment, humor therapy, hydrogen peroxide, hydrotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, hypnosis, visualization, immuno-augmentative therapy, inosine pranobex, kampo, kombucha tea, krebiozen, labyrinth walking, Laetrile, larch, light therapy, lipoic acid, Livingston-Wheeler therapy, macrobiotic diet, magnetic therapy, maitake mushroom, meditation, metabolic therapy, moxibustion, mugwort, Native American healing, naturopathy, neuro-linguistic programming, Noni (morinda) plant products, ohashiatsu, oleander leaf, orthomolecular medicine, osteopathic manipulation, oxygen therapy, pau d'arco, polarity therapy, poly-MVA, potassium supplements, pregnenolone, psychic surgery, qigong, rabdosia rubescens, red clover, reflexology, reiki, Revici guided chemotherapy, Rosen method of bodywork, Rubenfeld synergy method, saw palmetto, sea cucumber, 714-x, shamanism, shark cartilage, Siberian ginseng, snakeroot, tai chi, Tui-Na, urotherapy, Vitae Elixxir, vitamin K, Watsu, wheatgrass products, and yoga.

The book's publication reflects a change in the Society's policy toward nonstandard methods. For more than 30 years, the Society listed and published detailed reports on what it called "unproven" or "questionable" methods. In recent years, however, it has softened its terminology and issued only brief reports on "complementary and alternative methods." The overall message, however, has not changed: Be skeptical of any method that that is promoted as a "cure" but has not undergone scientific testing.

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This article was revised on December 31, 2001.