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Article: FDA busts myths of preventing and treating cancer by eating apricot kernels, herbs, and other ingredients

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Contents

False claims                 Clinical trials
What does this mean for me?     Questions for your doctor                
Guidelines Resources and references
   

 

WARNINGS AT A GLANCE

The United States Food and Drug Administration () sent warning letters to 14 fraudulent cancer cure companies. Apricot kernels, herbs and other ingredients are the focus of Maggie Fox’s NBC News coverage of the actions.  

A cancer diagnosis of an individual, family member or friend is challenging and can cause extreme distress; people diagnosed with cancer may be desperate to try anything and vulnerable to these companies’ claims to “cure” or “treat” cancer. The companies making these inaccurate are a danger and represent an injustice to the people they claim to help.  

FALSE CLAIM:  “If a person eats 6-12 apricot kernels per day, they will never have to worry about cancer.”

This false claim is advertised on one of the companies’ websites. Cancer patients and their families may be vulnerable and more willing to put skepticism aside if they hear or read that something can cure cancer. But these companies go further than that. According to a blog post written by the ’s Donald Ashley, JD and Douglas Stearn, JD, “These companies use slick ads, videos, and other sophisticated marketing techniques, including testimonials about miraculous outcomes. Often a single product was promoted as a treatment or cure for multiple diseases in humans and animals (2).”

However, these products have not been tested. Claims that they cure or treat cancer are fake, and they are potentially dangerous. As Maggie Fox writes, “…’Everything Herbs’ was advertising apricot kernels, which contain deadly cyanide. Apricot seeds were the basis for amygdalin (laetrile), an unproven but popular “alternative” cancer therapy sold online and in overseas clinics since the 1970s, despite much evidence it is worthless.”

The issued warning letters to 14 companies regarding their fraudulent claims about their products: AIE Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Amazing Sour Sop, Inc.; BioStar Technology International, LLC; Caudill Seed & Warehouse Inc.; DoctorVicks.com; Everything Herbs; Hawk Dok Natural Salve, LLC; Healing Within Products & Services, Inc.; LifeVantage Corporation; Nature’s Treasure, Inc.; Oxygen Health Systems, LLC; Sunstone, Inc.; The Vibrant Health Store, LLC (dba Dr. Christopher’s Herbs); and The Vitamin C Foundation (3).

What does this mean for me?

The is responsible for “Protecting the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, quality, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products, and medical devices.” Drug companies seeking approval to sell a new drug are required to test it in many ways, from early experiments done a laboratory to seeing if the drug is safe and effective for use in humans.

Additionally, clinical guidelines have not been written for any of these products. As defined by the Institute of Medicine, clinical guidelines are “…systematically developed statements to assist practitioner and patient decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances (4).” These guidelines are made after enough high-quality research studies are completed that support the use of the products in question. For example, many researchers and physicians from different academic institutions would have agree that eating 6-12 apricot kernels a day would prevent cancer for the guidelines to incorporate this practice.

Being diagnosed with cancer or experiencing a loved one going through cancer is difficult, and it is inappropriate, illegal and unethical for companies to promote products that have not been proven to be safe or effective. But because companies like these exist, cancer patients and their loved ones should be sure to confirm that the products or treatments they hear and read about are critically examined by trusted resources, such as the and a person’s own health care providers.

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References

Fox M. “ Warns of 14 ‘Fraudulent’ Cancer Cure Companies.” NBC News. Published online first on April 25, 2017.

Ashley DD and Stearn D. “ Takes Action Against Fraudulent Cancer Products.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Published online first on April 25, 2017. 

FDA: Illegally Sold Cancer Treatments

Disclosure

FORCE receives funding from industry sponsors, including companies that manufacture cancer drugs, tests and devices. All XRAYS articles are written independently of any sponsor and are reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board prior to publication to assure scientific integrity.

This article is relevant for:

People diagnosed with or concerned about their risk for cancer

This article is also relevant for:

Breast cancer survivors

Metastatic cancer

Ovarian cancer survivors

People with a genetic mutation linked to cancer risk

Triple negative breast cancer

Newly diagnosed

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Expert Guidelines Expert Guidelines

Dietary Supplements

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines on survivorship include the following recommendations on dietary supplement use:

  • Taking dietary supplements is not recommended for most cancer survivors unless a patient has a known nutritional deficit, an inadequate diet or other indication (for example, ).
  • Little data exist to support the use of vitamins or other dietary supplements for cancer prevention, control or recurrence.
  • Taking vitamin supplements does not replace the need for a healthy diet. Patients should try to get nutrients from the foods they eat and the beverages they drink.
  • Providers should ask about supplement use at regular intervals, about a patient’s reasons for using supplements and the ingredients in those supplements.
  • Survivors of certain cancers are at risk of vitamin deficiencies based on cancer treatment (e.g., gastric cancer patients who have had a gastrectomy may be at risk of vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies).
  • NCCN recommends calcium and vitamin D supplements for people who have been prescribed denosumab or a bisphosphonate to treat bone or .
  • Patients taking multiple supplements and those in need of nutritional support should be referred to a registered dietitian or nutritionist, preferably one who is trained in supporting oncology patients. 

Updated: 05/20/2022

Expert Guidelines Expert Guidelines

Endorsed since 2017 by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) guidelines recommend the following evidence-based integrative therapies:

  • Music therapy, meditation, stress management, and yoga for anxiety/stress reduction.
  • Meditation, relaxation, yoga, massage and music therapy for depression/mood disorders.
  • Meditation and yoga to improve overall quality of life.
  • Acupressure and acupuncture for reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Updated: 12/22/2021

Questions to Ask Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What are my treatment options?
  • Are there any supplements that I can take to help me prevent or treat my cancer? 
  • I'm taking herbal or dietary supplements, will these interfere with my treatment?
  • I'm taking herbal or dietary supplements, are any of these harmal?
  • I am having treatment side effects, are there any natural therapies that I can try? 
  • Can you refer me to an integrative medicine expert?

Open Clinical Trials Open Clinical Trials

The following studies are looking at integrative medical care for people diagnosed with cancer.

 

Updated: 12/22/2021

Open Clinical Trials Open Clinical Trials

The following are studies focused on nutrition and cancer prevention. 

Multiple cancers

Breast cancer

Colorectal cancer

Visit our Featured Research Page and Research Search and Enroll Tool to find additional studies enrolling people with, or at high risk for cancer.

Updated: 12/05/2021

Open Clinical Trials Open Clinical Trials

The following studies are looking at management of treatment side effects: 

Multiple cancers

Breast cancer

Colorectal cancer

Endometrial cancer

Ovarian cancer

cancer

Updated: 02/25/2022

Find Experts Find Experts

You can find a registered dietician in your area using the search tool from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  

Updated: 11/13/2021

Who covered this study?

CNBC

FDA warns of 14 ‘fraudulent’ cancer cure companies This article rates 5.0 out of 5 stars

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