Fake Treatments Double Death Rate from Cancer

Cancer death rates

A new study on cancer survival rates published in JAMA Oncology found that relying on fake treatment in addition to real treatments doubles the five-year death rate from cancer. This is because patients who have bought into fake treatments are much more likely to refuse real treatments.

For instance, the refusal rates among people who use fake treatments are 70 times higher for surgery. Almost half of people refused radiotherapy compared with just 2 in 100 for people who only use real treatments. The Kaplan–Meier plot above is from the paper.

Previous research show an increased death rate from only relying on fake treatments and totally rejecting real treatments. This new study shows that death rates are higher even when using fake treatments in addition to real treatments. This is likely because the ideology behind quackery is strongly anti-medicine and so poisons the minds of people with cancer into refusing real treatments.

This is a stunning indictment of the flawed notion that fake treatments are useful if they are paired with real treatments. They are not. In fact, there is not even a benefit to adding fake treatments to real medical treatments. This totally shatters the claims of “complementary” or “integrative” medicine.

Why was the study done?

The study is titled “Complementary Medicine, Refusal of Conventional Cancer Therapy, and Survival Among Patients With Curable Cancers” and was done by Skyler B. Johnson, Henry S. Park, Cary P. Gross and James B. Yu and published in JAMA Oncology online on July 19, 2018.

Fake treatments constitute a 34 billion dollar industry per year. This figure is a few years old, so they current figure is probably higher.

An estimated 48-88% of people who are treated for cancer also use fake treatments.

A previous study done by the same researchers found that only using alternative medicine versus getting real treatments increased death rates by 2.5 times. For specific cancers, the harm was even higher. For breast cancer, the death rate was 5.7 times higher and 4.6 times higher for colorectal cancer.

About 2 out of 3 people with cancer who fall for fake treatments think that it will make them live longer and about 1 in 3 think that it will cure their disease. There is no evidence for this, but some have speculated that fake treatments might improve outcomes by making it easier for patients to tolerate science-based treatments and complete it. The authors also suggested that use of fake treatments might harm patients due to increased refusals or increased delays until science-based treatments are used.

The study found that people who use fake treatments in addition to real treatments have twice the death rate of those who do not. This was mediated by an increased delay until starting science-based treatment and an increased refusal rate of real treatment. This shows the dangerous impact of the anti-medicine ideology underlying fake treatments.

To learn more about the molecular biology of cancer, read The Hallmarks of Cancer. For a real-life case of someone choosing quackery over real medicine, check out Woman With Treatable Breast Cancer Picks Quackery Over Medicine. To understand why should blame the perpetrators of quackery and not the victims, read People Who Fell For Quackery Don’t Deserve Death.

How was the study done?

The researchers got data from The National Cancer Database (NCDB) and looked at people who have gotten a breast, lung, prostate or colorectal cancer diagnosis between 2004 and 2013. All patients in the sample had gotten at least one science-based cancer treatment. The fake treatment variable was defined as people who had “Other-Unproven: Cancer treatments administered by nonmedical personnel” noted in their patient records. The Yale Institutional Review Board provided exempt status and waived informed consent requirements because the study looked at deidentified data already collected.

The study took into account many confounders, including cancer type, cancer stage, age, sex, ethnic background, comorbidity, type of health insurance, median income in the zip code where the person lived, percentage of people in the zip code who has a high school education, geographical region, if they lived in metropolitan area or not and what kind treatment facility.

The basic analysis involved matching 258 people in the real + fake treatment group and 1032 people in the control group who only got real treatment. The researchers defined survival rate as time from diagnosis until death.

What did the study find?

Fake treatments were independently associated with twice the death rate when compared with only science-based treatments. The hazard ratio was 2.08 and the 95% confidence interval was 1.50-2.90. Many different statistical analyses on the dataset showed increases in death rate from relying on fake treatments in addition to real ones.

Among patients who were receiving at least 1 form of CCT, those who chose CM were more likely to refuse additional CCT. Patients who chose CM also had a higher risk of death than patients who did not use CM when measures of treatment adherence were not included. However, when measures of treatment adherence were included, CM was no longer associated with an increased risk of death. The greater risk of death associated with CM is therefore linked to its association with treatment refusal.

However, when controlling for treatment delay and refusal, there was no longer any statistical difference. The hazard ratio was 1.39 and the 95% confidence interval was 0.83 to 2.33. Had the study involved more participants, perhaps the difference would have reached the statistical threshold. At any rate, this refutes the notion that adding fake treatments to real treatments somehow decrease death rates. It does not.

Because the delay in both groups where comparable, the increased death rates were likely due to people who rely on fake treatments refused real treatment to a higher degree. This can easily be explained by the fact that many supporters and providers of alternative and complementary “treatments” have an ideological opposition to real medicine. Thus, getting into the fake treatment vortex appears to increase psychological resistance to real treatments, leading to increased refusal.

In the matched sample, people who used fake treatments were 70 times (7.0% versus 0.1%) more likely to refuse surgery, 10.7 times (34.1% versus 3.2%) more likely to refuse chemotherapy, 23 times (53.0% versus 2.3%) more likely to refuse radiotherapy and 12 times (33.7% versus 2.8%) more likely to refuse hormone therapy.

In other words, relying on fake treatments means that over 1 in 3 will reject chemotherapy and hormone and compared with 2 in 100 and 3 in 100, respectively. Relying on fake treatments means that over 1 in 2 will reject radiotherapy compared with 2 in 100.

These are astonishing numbers, clearly showing that the fake treatment ideologies and industry cause real and considerable harm.

The researchers also found an association between relying on fake treatments and a higher stage of cancer. This might indicate that the worse the cancer, the more desperate people become and the more likely they are to rely on fake treatments. This is also supported by the finding that people with less hopeful cancer prognosis are more likely to rely on fake treatments. It is also possible that people who believe in fake treatments delay their screening or have a delayed diagnosis.

Patients who relied on fake treatments in addition to real treatment tended to be more likely to be female, younger, having breast or colorectal cancer, being richer, having a higher educational level, living in the Pacific or Intermountain West, have private insurance and having a comorbidity score of 0. This result was consistent with previous findings. The geographical finding can be explained by higher concentration of schools teaching fake treatments to students and laws that are beneficial to the fake treatment industry. This is yet another nail in the coffin of the naive view that it is mostly ignorant people with low income and low education that falls for quackery and that it can be defeated by merely giving people raw fats. In this study, relying on fake treatments was associated with both a higher living standard and education. This highlights the ongoing importance of critical thinking skills above and beyond general education.

Because the patients who relied on fake treatments in additional to real medicine were more likely to be younger, richer and have more education, it is likely that the analysis overestimated the survival for patients who fake treatments. The real figures might be even worse.

The researchers conclude that it is vital for health care professionals to talk with their patents about fake treatments and compliance to real medical treatments. In particular, it is important to highlight the effects of refusing real treatments. Otherwise, patients who use fake treatments are at great risk to refuse real treatments and thus have an increased risk of dying

Conclusion

People with cancer should use real medical treatments and not use any fake treatments. They should not rely on fake treatments exclusively and they should not complement real treatments with fake treatments. This is probably because the ideology underlying fake treatments poisons the minds of people into refusing real treatments to a large degree, leading to higher death rates.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

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