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Reviews Personal views

Shark cartilage in the water

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 23 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1129
  1. Jonathan Waxman, professor of oncology, Imperial College, London (

    It is estimated that up to 80% of all patients with cancer take a complementary treatment or follow a dietary programme to help treat their cancer. These treatments may often delay the institution of conventional therapy and may result from pressure from family and friends to try an alternative approach to the conventional.

    The NHS Directory of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners lists 29 directories, which include “Flower Therapy” and “Dowsing.” Alternative Medicine is big business, with a market value in the UK alone of £250m in the year 2005. The current prediction is that sales will increase by 7% per annum. The rationale for the use of many of these approaches is obtuse—one might even be tempted to write misleading. It is difficult to provide any sort of objective rationale whatsoever for the sales of any of these products. Indeed the claims made by companies to support the sales of such products may be overtly and malignly incorrect …

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