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Scams and Shams That Prey on Cancer Patients
Date:9/29/2008

might offer hope."

Many of these so-called cures or preventive treatments won't actually cause harm (except to your wallet), but some can interact with regular, supervised medical treatment, Wally said.

"Antioxidants can actually interfere with chemotherapy and radiation treatment," she said. "Some people think, 'I'm just drinking juice.' But they might be drinking two gallons of juice a day of super-antioxidant juice compound, not thinking to discuss it with their doctor."

And, some consumers may actually forego lifesaving conventional treatments in favor of shams.

Here's some advice from the experts:

  • "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Dr. Ted Gansler, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society. Beware of claims that one treatment will cure all types of cancer or more than one type of disease. Also be leery of language such as "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "secret ingredient" and "ancient remedy," as well as claims that a product is "natural" and therefore safe. And take note of claims that the product has limited availability and that the company needs advance payment.
  • Find out if the product has ever been tested in humans. Laboratory and animal research is fine, but only as a starting point, not as a basis for recommending the therapy in humans, Wally said.
  • "Be careful about the credentials of the people promoting the treatment," Gansler said. "The possibility that someone with no medical or scientific treatment is going to come up with a cure for cancer or other diseases is not very likely." Reliable sources of information include the American Cancer Society, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. (All have Web sites.)
  • "Watch out for evidence that is only testimonial," Gansler said. "In some of the most notorious alternative clinics, p
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