Does use of alternative medicine predict survival in cancer?
Background. This study examines the association between use of alternative medicine and cancer survival. Material and methods. A national multicentre study was carried out in Norway in December 1992 to assess the prevalence of use of alternative medicine among cancer patients. In January 2001 survival data were obtained with a follow up of eight years for 515 cancer patients. Results. A total of 112 (22%) assessable patients used alternative medicine. During the follow up period, 350 patients died. Death rates were higher in users (79%) than in non-users (65%). In a Cox regression model adjusted for demographic, disease and treatment factors, the hazard ratio of death for any use of alternative medicine compared to no use was 1.30, p = 0.056, suggesting that alternative medicine use predicts shorter survival. Alternative medicine use had the most detrimental effect in patients with Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status ECOG 0, (p = 0.001) when compared with ECOG 1 or higher. Interpretation. The use of alternative medicine seems to predict shorter survival in cancer. This effect appears predominantly in patients with good performance status.