In 2017, a study was published comparing the survival of cancer patients who underwent conventional treatment verses those who chose only alternative treatments. And the media had a field day with clickbait headlines like these:
“Alternative cancer therapy linked to earlier death”
“Alternative medicine for cancer more than doubles death risk”
“Cancer is way more likely to kill you if you rely on alternative therapies”
And my personal favorite…
“Alternative medicine’s toll on cancer patients: Death rate up to 5X higher”
I’m sure that last one got boatloads of clicks.
On the surface, these headlines may be concerning if you are trying to heal cancer naturally, but rest assured, I read the entire study and the results are not at all what they claim.
I actually LOVE this study. Because it gives me a beautiful opportunity to show you how agenda-biased science works.
Science is fun. And funny. Because the conclusion of a study is all about how the authors choose to interpret the results.
For example, here’s an “alternative” title for the study based on the exact same data:
“Conventional treatment for prostate cancer no better than alternative medicine”
I’ll get to that conclusion in a minute, but first let’s set the stage:
The cancer industry has a real PR problem.
The overall death rate for cancer has only improved about 5% in the last 60 years.
And while most people don’t know that shocking statistic exists (you’re welcome), what they do know (including you, dear reader) is that cancer treatments have failed to save the lives of many people they love.
This is why, today, doctors are bombarded with questions from new patients about alternative therapies. I even asked my doctor about alternative options in 2004, to which he said,
“There are none. If you don’t do chemotherapy, you’re INSANE.”
While that was a highly effective, fear-inducing sales tactic that almost worked on me, that type of approach also tends to run patients off. Doctors needed a friendlier, more science-y comeback.
They need a headline and talking point that can be quickly disseminated throughout all of Cancerdom; a quick response to shoot down patients who may be skeptical of the effectiveness and wary of the risks of conventional treatment, and who may be looking into alternatives.
And now they’ve got one. That’s the intention of this study.
Here’s what the study concluded:
“Patients who initially chose Alternative Medicine (AM) for treatment of curable cancer in lieu of Conventional Cancer Treatment (CCT) were rare and had statistically significantly worse survival. After controlling for sociodemographic and clinical factors, the magnitude of difference was largest for breast cancer because women who used AM as initial treatment without CCT had more than a fivefold increased risk of death. Patients with colorectal and lung cancer had a more than fourfold and twofold increase in risk of death, respectively. Notably, there was no statistically significant association between AM use and survival for patients with prostate cancer.”
Major media outlets summarized the findings like this:
If you chose alternative medicine instead of conventional treatment for breast cancer, you are over 5 times more likely to die, for lung cancer you are twice as likely to die, and for colorectal cancer you are over 4 times more likely to die. And that’s what they want you to take away. But we’re just getting started…
Enter the Straw Man.
In the world of ideas and debate, a “straw man” is a logical fallacy in which you intentionally misrepresent someone’s position to make it easier to attack and defeat them.
And what we have here is essentially a “straw man study.”
The study authors identified (cherry-picked?) 281 patients from the National Cancer Database between 2003-2014, who were coded as undergoing “other-unproven: cancer treatments administered by non-medical personnel.”
Problem #1 Not only have the researchers NEVER MET these patients, they have NO IDEA what “alternative treatments” they did, if any! And they admit it right in the conclusion of the study:
“We lack information regarding the type of alternative therapies delivered…”
This makes for an arguably worthless statistical pool.
Conventional medicine rarely cures cancer… and the same goes for alternative medicine.
I’ve never been an advocate for “alternative medicine” because the term is far too broad. It means everything and nothing.
According to the study authors, “alternative medicine” includes anything that isn’t surgery, chemo, radiation, or hormone therapy.
It includes the things I did: whole food plant-based nutrition, juicing, fasting, exercise, optimal sleep, stress reduction, vitamin C IV therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and loads of herbal and nutraceutical supplements.
But it also includes things I didn’t do, like crystals, alkaline water, ayahuasca, witchcraft, drinking camel urine, drinking your own urine, the primal raw meat diet, the ketogenic diet, “miracle cure” concoctions, being buried from the neck down in the dirt by Aborigines, etc.
When someone tells me they are doing “alternative therapies” I have no idea what that means. And I often encounter people looking for a quick fix and chasing after an alternative cure without addressing the many obvious problems and cancer-causers in their life.
So defending the vast world of alternative therapies is pointless.
Here’s the simple truth…
Cancer is a disease that needs to be healed. And people ARE healing cancer.
Healing cancer isn’t about treatments or therapies – although they may be involved – it’s about a total life change. Removing everything in your life that may be contributing to your disease and replacing those harmful things with an evidence-based (plant-based) anti-cancer diet, exercise and lifestyle habits that promote health and healing, stress reduction… It’s about healing your life.
I’ve interviewed over 50 people who’ve healed all types and stages of cancer (real names and faces and everything!) right here.
Some of them healed without any conventional treatment. Others healed even after conventional therapy failed them.
There are common threads in their “alternative” approaches to healing, but none of them did the same thing. So you can’t lump them all together as if they are all the same.
But that’s exactly what the study authors did.
They propped up a straw man study group that was easy to knock over.
Let’s take a closer look at the Alternative Medicine group in the study
Compared to the Conventional (CCT) group, the 281 patients in the Alternative Medicine (AM) group were more likely to be younger and female, living on the Pacific side of the US, with a higher eduction and income, AND a higher cancer stage (stage II or III). Stage IV patients were excluded.
Problem #2 They’re comparing the survival of a group with higher stage cancers to a group with lower stage cancers.
And remember Problem #1, the study authors have no idea what alternative therapies any of these patients did.
It’s worth mentioning that sometimes patients do nothing, but tell their doctors they are doing “alternative therapies” just so the doctors will leave them alone. And others choose alternative options because conventional treatment is ridiculously expensive and they can’t afford it.
CTL019, the latest CAR T-cell leukemia treatment from Novartis is expected to cost $649,000 for ONE treatment. “Honey, we’re gonna have to sell the Lamborghini…”
But I digress.
Even though this study is a sloppy mess and the Alternative Medicine pool is nearly statistically worthless, let’s look at the 5-year survival numbers anyway.
For breast cancer, about 86% of CCT patients were alive at 5 years versus 58% of AM patients.
For lung cancer, about 51% of CCT patients were alive at 5 years versus 20% of AM patients.
For colorectal cancer, about 79% of CCT patients were alive at 5 years versus 32% of AM patients.
Based on these numbers, yes, it appears that conventional medicine worked better than “alternative medicine” in keeping breast, colorectal, and lung cancer patients alive for at least 5 years. But keep in mind, the study makes no distinction as to whether or not these patients were disease free or still had cancer at the 5-year mark.
Again, the alternative medicine patients were more likely to have higher stage cancer and we have no idea what alternative therapies any of them did. So this really proves nothing.
Except for the Prostate Cancer results…
94% of conventionally treated prostate cancer patients were alive at 5 years versus 86% of “alternative” patients. According to the study authors, “there was no statistically significant association between AM use and survival for patients with prostate cancer.”
So according to this study, for prostate cancer, apparently anything you do is as good as conventional treatment, which brings me to my “alternative” study headline:
“Conventional therapy is no better than alternative therapy for prostate cancer survival.”
Maybe the crystals and camel urine worked after all!
But seriously, since we’re on the subject of prostate cancer, in 2005 Dr. Dean Ornish MD conducted a ground-breaking interventional study with 93 patients PROVING that you can reverse the progression of early stage prostate cancer with a plant-based diet, exercise, and stress reduction. That’s the kind of study that matters and one everyone should be talking about.
It’s a sad state of affairs when clinical nutrition and lifestyle interventions are considered “alternative medicine” while surgery, radiation and toxic drug therapies are the conventional standard of care. You can thank the pharmaceutical industry for that.
And another thing, a significant number of the alternative medicine patients in the conventional vs alternative study LIVED. Why isn’t anyone in the medical establishment interested in finding out what they did?
“There’s no point in investigating them. They were just lucky.”
But wait, it gets better (and worse)…
This study was not conducted by unbiased researchers, like Cochrane, for example. The authors are all cancer industry professionals.
Two of the study authors have received funding from 21st Century Oncology, a company that is now in bankruptcy, which may have something to due with having to pay $54 million to settle two federal lawsuits for Medicare billing fraud. 21st Century Oncology has also been accused of gender bias and unsafe practices.
According to a 50-page federal whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2016, Florida Cancer Specialists and 21st Century Oncology paid “millions of dollars to each other in the form of exclusive patient referrals in order to secure their individual monopolies in Southwest Florida of medical oncology (Florida Cancer Specialists) and radiation oncology (21st Century Oncology).”
Or course that doesn’t mean the study authors are corrupt, but it’s pretty hard to stay clean when you’re swimming in a swamp.
Speaking of, if you still think this study is worth the paper it’s printed on, I’ve got some swamp land in Florida I think you’ll be very interested in…
I've interviewed over 60 people who've healed all types and stages of cancer. Check them out here. Or use the search bar to find survivors of specific cancer types.