Health & Wellness

Avoiding Supplement Scams

Written By:
Oct 22, 2012
Fact Checked
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Written By: Faith Franz,
October 22, 2012

Numerous clinical studies have shown that certain plants have medicinal properties. From herbs and spices to fruits and vegetables, many natural substances can either support or initiate healing mechanisms in the body.

As a result, many doctors — both homeopathic and allopathic — encourage their patients to explore using natural supplements as part of alternative ways to treat cancer.

On the other hand, few doctors would ever endorse a dietary supplement that claims to cure cancer, yet such concoctions remain prevalent in the $20 billion a year supplement industry. When presented with a low-cost, low-risk supplement that claims to kill off their cancer, patients are often willing to give it a shot.

At best, the pills that claim to cure cancer are a misleading scam, but at worst, they are dangerous formulations that can delay adequate medical attention or interfere with the safety and efficacy of traditional treatments. For instance, certain salves that are marketed to “draw out” the cancer from a patient’s body have actually burned through the patients’ skin and left them with destroyed tissue and permanent scars.

This isn’t meant to discourage you from exploring supplements. In fact, studies do show that natural supplements can help relieve mesothelioma­-related pain, nausea, digestive issues, sleeplessness and even anxiety. Research also indicates that certain supplements can support the body’s natural cancer-fighting mechanisms. However, it’s absolutely critical for you and your doctor to carefully evaluate the claims of any natural supplement that you are interested in taking.

How to Choose Safe, Effective Supplements

The Federal Trade Commission prohibits deceptive marketing, including unsubstantiated claims that a pill can cure cancer. However, many companies still use fake clinical “proof,” testimonials or claims to sell their supplements.

In many cases, patients are guided by common sense to spot these fake claims. The following red flags often indicate a bogus supplement:

  • Sweeping generalizations, such as “this pill cures all types of cancer!” or “every patient who takes this sees benefits!”
  • Personal testimonies instead of clinical trial results or other legitimate scientific data
  • Overly technical medical terms (designed to impress or confuse the customer)
  • Marketing terms such as “miracle tonic,” “painless, safe and guaranteed effective,”  “secret formula” and “ancient cure”
  • A money-back guarantee

When researching a potential supplement, patients should check several resources to verify the validity of the product. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database and the Food and Drug Administration’s Dietary Supplements Alert and Safety Information system are two reputable places to start.

Before making the final purchase, patients should also consult with their oncologist. Certain supplements can interfere with prescription drugs or other mesothelioma treatments. Some supplements can also contain harmful inactive ingredients. An oncologist can help the patient verify the safety and efficacy of the drug; they can also provide the patient with a realistic explanation of what the supplement can and cannot do.

Have you tried any supplements? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.

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