Wed Feb 2, 2005 07:18 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Whether it is herbs, homeopathy or vitamin and mineral supplements, more than a third of cancer patients in Europe use alternative medicine.
Usage varies from less than 15 percent of patients in Greece to nearly three-quarters in Italy, according to the first Europe-wide study of complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) published in the Annals of Oncology on Thursday.
"Irrespective of what health professionals believe about CAM and how dismissive they might be, our findings show that patients are using, and will continue to use CAM," said Dr Alex Molassiotis, of the University of Manchester School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, in England.
The survey of nearly 1,000 patients in 14 countries showed that alternative therapy users tended to be young, educated women. It was most popular in patients suffering from pancreatic, liver, bone and brain cancers.
Herbs, homeopathy, medicinal teas and vitamin and mineral supplements were the most common of the 58 CAM treatments mentioned in the survey. Patients in Israel, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Greece and Iceland also used spiritual therapies.
Cancer sufferers used the therapies for an average of 27 months to improve their physical and emotional well being and to increase their ability to fight the illness.
Patients were generally satisfied with the treatments. Only 3 percent thought it was useless.
"Although CAM use in Europe in lower than in the U.S. according to North American surveys, our study indicates that the average ... use in Europe has increased since a review of 29 studies was published in 1998," said Molassiotis.
"Since it appears that CAM is here to stay, the European Union needs to consider broader policies, common laws and rationalization of available legislation," he added.