The use of complementary and alternative medicine for the prevention and treatment of various diseases has become more popular in recent years than ever before. With the growth of the Internet, consumers now have more accessibility to information and advertising about alternative products. Some people are reluctant to take prescription medications because of fear of unwanted effects. Thus, they turn to dietary and herbal supplements to treat their illnesses because they feel these products are natural and safe. Some individuals may also choose to take both traditional and alternative medicine to treat illnesses, which is especially common in those receiving treatment for cancer. Surveys indicate that 7% to 64% of cancer patients use alternative medicine. However, as many as 50% do not tell their physician that they take alternative therapies.
Several types of alternative therapies exist, including herbals, vitamins, and dietary products. Many of the benefits from these products result from their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have received much media attention in recent years regarding cancer prevention. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants, has been reported to lower a person’s risk for some types of cancer. Antioxidant supplements, which contain larger amounts of antioxidants than contained in food sources, have also been reported to decrease a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer. Specifically, vitamin E and selenium supplements have been shown to reduce the incidence of prostate and colon cancer.
Antioxidants are also used by some patients during cancer treatment in the hopes of reducing the side effects of chemotherapy.