"Further research is necessary to guide pediatricians in making recommendations on CAM modalities for children, including potential risks and/or benefits and interactions with conventional therapies," Birdee added.
Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, also expressed concern that alternative therapies could interfere with other treatments.
"These integrated therapies are almost not appreciated at all," Lipshultz said. "This study shows the number of kids using these therapies."
He noted that about 66 percent children with cancer use some type of CAM. "The problem is that few cancer specialists for children, and very few families, consider the importance of asking about CAM or volunteering that information," he said.
Some CAM treatments can interfere with traditional cancer treatments, Lipshultz said. The same could be true, he said, for children being treated for asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
A major problem is that alternative remedies have not been well studied, Lipshultz said.
The sickest children -- "the ones looking for hope" -- are "more likely to be using CAM," he said. "And yet, whether they have beneficial or detrimental effects is almost totally unstudied."
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has information for people considering CAM.
SOURCES: Gurjeet Birdee, M.D., M.P.H., instructor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., chairman, pediatrics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami; February 2010, Pediatrics
All rights reserved