Patients who receive alternative medicine are more likely to refuse conventional cancer treatment and have a higher risk of death.

What patient characteristics are associated with use of complementary medicine for cancer and what is the association of complementary medicine with treatment adherence and survival?

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A study of 1.9M patients published in JAMA Oncology focuses on the association among complementary medicine, adherence to conventional cancer treatment, and overall survival of patients with cancer who receive complementary treatment compared with those who do not. 

Their findings show that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine over standard cancer treatments are more likely to die.

The authors found that complementary medicine did no apparent harm if people used it alongside conventional surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. However, when people opted out of proven treatments to choose herbs, homeopathy or other alternative treatments, they were twice as likely to die of cancer.

These are important considerations that cancer patients need to consider when choosing a treatment or alternative treatment plan.

Marie-Elizabeth Barabas

Consulting Editor, Springer Nature

I'm an interdisciplinary neuroscientist with a research background in peripheral sensory/pain research, retinoblastoma, retinal development, and stem cell research. As a Consulting Editor for Communications Biology, I primarily handle their neuroscience-relevant content. I also attend conferences and meetings to develop a relationship with our readers, authors, and editors. If you see me at a conference, feel free to introduce yourself.