No convincing evidence showing that amygdalin induces rapid, distinct tumor regression in cancer patients, particularly in those with late-stage disease, is apparent.
Natural products have a real appeal to some people, especially given the side effects that are possible with pharmaceuticals. Cancer treatments especially can be hard on your body. However, it’s important to remember that “natural” doesn’t automatically mean “safe.”
Those studies, and more than a dozen similar ones published in the decade before them, do appear to demonstrate that B17 has a use in cancer treatment. So why isn’t that enough?
Side Effects and Safety Concerns
Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.
While there’s no proven way to completely eliminate the risk of all cancers, certain practices may help lower the risk. These practices include:
Not all the research into amygdalin as a cancer treatment is positive, either. A review available evidence published in 2016 says:
The human body is complex. For a treatment like laetrile to be an effective cancer treatment, it needs to not only effectively kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells, it has to:
This is based on the idea that your muscles are linked to certain organs, and muscle weakness is a sign of a health issue in those areas. Also called muscle strength testing, some use it to diagnose illnesses, including cancer, and make treatment decisions. But no science supports it, and research shows it doesn’t work.
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The idea that very high doses of vitamin C can treat cancer started in the 1970s. It was based on research that suggested the nutrient is toxic to cancer cells. But studies show that taking megadoses of vitamin C by mouth doesn’t do anything for people with cancer. And it can affect how certain chemotherapy drugs work. Researchers are now looking at whether shots of vitamin C can help.
While some alternative therapies can help, many don’t work. Research shows that up to 30% of people with cancer have tried a so-called “cure” that doesn’t have any benefits. They can be a waste of time and money. Even worse, some of these “remedies” are dangerous to your health and may affect how well other cancer treatments work.
If you’re interested in trying an untraditional remedy, talk with your doctor first. She can help you understand if it might help and make sure it won’t lead to dangerous side effects. And it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your doctor. One study found that people with cancer who used alternative remedies were more likely to refuse the treatment their doctor recommended.
Research shows there’s no link between personality traits and your chances of getting or surviving cancer. What a positive attitude can do is improve your quality of life during diagnosis and treatment. It can also help you better live with and manage the disease.
This is an extract made from apricot pits and other plants. It’s also known as Laetrile and vitamin B-17. Your body breaks down amygdalin into a toxic chemical called cyanide. Some people say this poison targets and kills cancer cells, but studies show it doesn’t fight cancer and can lead to cyanide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, and possibly life-threatening low blood pressure.
Dr. Yeung is manager of the About Herbs database, created and maintained by MSK’s Integrative Medicine Service. The service provides complementary therapies such as acupuncture, music therapy, and massage that are used in addition to — not as alternatives for — mainstream cancer approaches such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
The hype: Cannabis oil is often heralded as a treatment to destroy or shrink cancerous tumors, as well as a cure for diabetes, ulcers, arthritis, migraines, insomnia, infections, and many other diseases. Also called marijuana oil or hemp oil, it’s extracted from marijuana plants, often with higher proportion of a compound known as CBD (cannabidiol), which has less of a psychoactive effect than the more-famous THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) compound that gets marijuana users high.
Here, Dr. Yeung explains the hype and the scientific evidence surrounding three highly publicized but unproven therapies: cannabis oil, Laetrile, and a pH-manipulation (also known as alkaline) diet.
The verdict: “Laetrile has not been proven to be effective against cancer and can even be dangerous to some patients,” Dr. Yeung says. “If amygdalin is eventually used in an anticancer drug, it will have to be in a different form, because the oral form is toxic and too dangerous to use.”
The hype: Based on the scientific observation that cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment — meaning low pH levels — some people contend that highly “acidic” foods such as meat, cheese, and grain products raise the risk of cancer by reducing pH levels in the blood. They claim that eating “alkaline” foods such as fruit, green vegetables, and other plant-based products discourages the growth of cancer cells by raising blood pH levels and tout the benefits of the alkaline diet (also known as the alkaline ash diet or alkaline acid diet).