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A Critical Analysis of Natural Cancer Cures and Treatments Promoted via the Internet

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Abstract and Figures

Informational websites, internet forums, social media sites, internet video channels, and other online media are awash with content regarding alternatives to treating a wide-variety of diseases and ailments. These venues provide endless unscientific and uncritical support for these treatments. Most of these alleged cures come from anecdotal evidence and rarely point to a scientific study supporting their claims in vivo; however, overwhelmingly there are enumerable postings pointing to resources on the internet. The internet is an attractive location to quickly look-up information about almost anything today. At least 6.75 million global searches are done each day on health-related issues (Eysenbach, 2003). How much of that information is scientifically accurate?
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A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF NATURAL CANCER CURES AND TREATMENTS
PROMOTED VIA THE INTERNET
by
Reginald V. Finley Sr
April 28th, 2013
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of Education at the
University at Buffalo, State University of New York
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
Degree of
Master of Education (EdM)
Science and the Public Program
Department Of Learning & Instruction
Graduate School of Education
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to acknowledge my many friends, colleagues, and associates that have helped
encourage and motivate me to obtain my degree: Dr. Gerald Egeland, Dr. Skip Bazile, Pete McDonald,
Mike Tomlinson, Raymond Dickey, Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, Dr. Robert Price, Dr. Ed Buckner, Norm
Allen Jr, Dr. Stephen Burnett, Dr. David Gorski, Ed Suomenin, Deborah Bolton, Travis Williams,
Kinnsey Cobinn, Louise Graham and Jocelyn Li.
A special mention to my wife, Dilandrea Finley, and my children for their patience in dealing
with the long hours spent while working on this thesis: Reggie Jr, Ryan, Tylar, Tylan, and Dorian. To
the son I have missed the most, Donovan Meekins--may my work in some way inspire and motivate
you to finish college and to also be more than what is expected of you.
With all of these mentions, I must also give acknowledgment to my ancestors; for without them,
I would not be here to write this thesis at all. My mother always told me that I could do or become
whatever I put my mind to. Though I never met them, my grandparents, great-grandparents and others,
have moved and inspired me more than they could have ever imagined.
My mother was Mary Frances LaSaine Finley. She died due to complications with cancer in
September of 2011. She earned her Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from Georgia State
University. I remember seeing her typing away on her computer up to 11 o'clock at night working on
graduate papers. I could not quite understand why this meant so much to her—at least, not until I
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started graduate school myself; and yeah, it was as hard as it looked.
A decade after watching my mother toil on her educational pursuits, I suddenly developed an
interest in genealogy. I learned that there were phenomenal players in my family history. They had a
love and true passion for education. That passion kept them strong, and it is what pushed them to be
more than even they envisioned for themselves.
Dr. Thomas Alonzo LaSaine Jr was a medical doctor and professor at Meharry Medical in
Nashville, Tennessee. He along with his wife, my grandmother Willie Anna Chatman, R.N (who died
due to complications with breast cancer), reflected a passion and concern for human beings of all
backgrounds.
His mother, my great-grandmother, was Dr. Mary Alice Person-LaSaine. Dr. Alice LaSaine was
Charleston, South Carolina's first black superintendent of “negro schools” in the 1950's. She pushed
for black school children to have an equal education and access to public transportation. She, like her
son, pushed for academic achievement and personal growth regardless of one's position in life. A
school is named after her in Charleston: Murray-LaSaine Elementary School.
I am inspired by my ancestors' sacrifices, love, and passion for people, as well as being a
beacon of light for others to follow. It is my hope to follow in my ancestors' footsteps and be an
individual worthy enough to represent their evolutionary struggle, which eventually lead, to me.
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Table of Contents
ABSTRACT ........................................................................................................
INTRODUCTION ..............................................................................................
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE .....................................................................
METHODOLOGY ..............................................................................................
RESULTS ............................................................................................................
CONCLUSIONS .................................................................................................
APPENDIX A: Key Words and Phrases .............................................................
APPENDIX B: Email Request ............................................................................
APPENDIX C: Data Collection ..........................................................................
APPENDIX D: Data Collection ..........................................................................
APPENDIX E: NCCTS Identification ................................................................
REFERENCES ....................................................................................................
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ABSTRACT
Informational websites, internet forums, social media sites, internet video channels, and other
online media are awash with content regarding alternatives to treating a wide-variety of diseases and
ailments. These venues provide endless unscientific and uncritical support for these treatments. Most
of these alleged cures come from anecdotal evidence and rarely point to a scientific study supporting
their claims in vivo; however, overwhelmingly there are enumerable postings pointing to resources on
the internet. The internet is an attractive location to quickly look-up information about almost anything
today. At least 6.75 million global searches are done each day on health-related issues (Eysenbach,
2003). How much of that information is scientifically accurate? When one types in “natural cancer
cures” in the google.com search engine, they will immediately get results providing alleged natural
cures for cancer. There are no listed results nor sponsored ads which represent a critical look at the
claims of these Natural Cancer Cure and Treatment practitioners. This lack of accessibility to contrary
information can be a danger to public health interests as most consumers have difficulty distinguishing
pseudoscience, poorly done science, and good science. It is also a concern that desperate consumers
may be attracted to the science-sounding material posted on these sites.
Information was collected from website results posted via google.com. Keywords searched for
were: “Natural Cancer Cure”, “Natural Cancer Cures” , “Natural Cure for Cancer” , “Natural Cancer
Treatment” and “Natural Cancer Treatments”. These Natural Cancer Cure and Treatment Sites
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(NCCTSs) were evaluated on whether they possessed scientific rigor as well as whether or not they
displayed medically responsible concern for potential patients. Thus, Scientific Rigor and Medical
Responsibility (SRMR) became our litmus in evaluating the NCCTSs
Ninety-nine percent of the NCCTSs analyzed failed to meet any outlined standard of scientific
rigor. 85% of the NCCTSs failed in an evaluation of being medically responsible; which consists of
listing disclaimers and contraindications for the products they supported. NCCTS failed to provide any
peer-reviewed studies supporting their treatments.
NCCTSs used emotional language to move and convince their readers; usually with warnings
about government conspiracies and traditional medicine's personal greed. Most NCCTSs were heavily
biased in one direction and closed to scientific discourse which could overturn their position. NCCTSs
frequently used science-sounding jargon to describe their product; yet, there was a profound lack of
science contained with their pages. NCCTSs that did discuss scientific and medical aspects of their
products produced information that did not match the current consensus on cancer treatment
methodology. Almost all NCCTSs appeared to lack an understanding of scientific methodology,
objectivity, critical thinking, and peer review.
NCCTS often promoted pseudoscience, religion, prayer, acupuncture, homeopathy, and
unregulated herbs as treatment options. In many cases, NCCTSs would produce data mimicking more
credible scientific aspects of cancer research. The NCCTSs also do not make mention of any ill effects
of these treatment options nor do they publish the efficacy of their treatments or proposed treatments in
any way. Even when requested via questionnaire, there was no scientific data forthcoming that
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defended their claims.
The results of this study reveal an overall lack of Scientific Rigor and Medical Responsibility
within the NCCT community of sites. The sheer number of sites providing information about natural
cures and treatments may have a profound impact on the public to make informed decisions relating to
their health.
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1
INTRODUCTION
Background
There are thousands of websites proclaiming to have natural remedies and treatments for a wide
number of ailments from cancer to HIV. One would suspect that if this truly was the case that there
would be an unlimited amount of peer-reviewed studies in prestigious journals reflecting these
breakthroughs. The leading hypothesis of this research paper is that when these natural cancer cure and
treatment sites are examined under a critical investigatory lens, they will be found lacking acceptable
scientific rigor; and equally important also, it is hypothesized that there is an overall lack of medical
responsibility associated with these sites. These lacks would sufficiently account for their rejection by
the scientific community, and not some other contrived explanation that is posited by the adherents of
natural treatments for cancer.
If the hypotheses rings true, the risk to the public in this digital age is imminent. Many NCCTS
have turned completely away from traditional and modern medicine with the belief that all of man's ill
are curable via natural means. This is of course, irresponsible as there are many natural products that
are particularly deadly. In this modern age, there is no logical reason why the public should believe
that natural is always a better and more effective method to cure or treat an ailment. Unfortunately, this
is the mantra that is permeated within the NCCTS culture.
2
A foundational story which addresses the possible risk to the public from the unbridled
promotion of these NCCTSs, is the case of Belinda Feinstein1. Belinda was diagnosed with stage 3
colon cancer by traditional doctors. Doctors informed her and her husband that the cost was going to
be about $100,000 for a full range of treatment. Unable to afford this, the family began to look online
for alternative treatments. A devotedly faithful and religious family, they came upon a website which
made mention of natural cures for cancer, “God's way”. Believing in the healing power of a god
through natural means appeared rational to the couple as they shared similar beliefs. They decided to
pursue a natural course of treatment. The website boasted of high success rates, no side-effects, all
natural, proven techniques, and god's cure. They contacted the website, which is now defunct, and
received a response the same day. The course of treatment was explained to them in some detail.
Medical personnel, over the phone, explained that Belinda was going to receive an intravenous herbal
remedy and a vitamin C intravenous regimen. This particular treatment was only a fraction of the cost
and had no side-effects. For $35,000, Belinda and family believed that they were an arm's length away
from a cure. They were encouraged to not seek traditional treatments and waste their money on
something that will not work.
The family spent almost a year trying to decide what to do as the cancer quickly spread. Family
members concerned over the news that Belinda was considering a natural course of treatment became
alarmed and researched the doctor who would be performing the procedure. When it was inquired of
the NCCTS personnel to produce medical studies and success rates. They freely admitted they had
none but pointed to testimonials on their webpage. It was revealed that this doctor was under review
1 Real name not used to protect the victim's and family's identity.
3
for unethical conduct and was facing losing his medical license. Apparently, this particular
Naturopathic physician in question was under civil investigation for a number of deaths related to his
care. Many other comments about this physician's techniques surfaced and reviews by former patients
stated that his treatments did not work.
After some time, finally, family members managed to convince Belinda and her husband to seek
out traditional treatment. She was admitted to a cancer center for treatment but it was too late. The
cancer had spread to almost every major organ in her body. It was now stage IV cancer. Belinda died
in 2009 from complications with cancer.
Belinda's case unfortunately is not unique, and an extensive review of the harm that can be
caused by Naturopathic Oncology goes far beyond the scope of this paper, but I hope that this research
paper inspires others, ethic's boards, the FDA, and other consumer protectorates to look more deeply
into this issue. Cases such as Belinda's may be significantly reduced if newer ethical laws to protect
patients under the care of Naturopathic practitioners are implemented.
The information is out there, by the hundreds of thousands. Preventing NCCTS from
publishing internet material is obviously a freespeech violation and not only that, probably impossible.
NCCTS's information may be leading people to their deaths and there does not seem to be much to
prevent this. The public has a difficult time ascertaining what's false and what's truth when it comes to
scientific research (Miller, 2004). In the context of reviewing medical literature and NCCTSs, the
public will need to be armed in order to sift through the barrage of science-speak. To suspend medical
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treatment due to high costs is common and a shame, and that's another area of investigation; but to
suspend treatment due to ignorance and/or fear perpetuated by pseudoscientific beliefs is another, and
the web is awash with pseudo-scientific material as it relates to cancer treatments and cures.
What is a Natural Cancer Cure or Treatment Site?
Defining NCCTS:
A Natural Cancer Treatment and Cure Site is defined as any website that claims to be able
to cure or treat any cancer via some natural methodology. Natural methodologies would
include any substance grown from or produced by the Earth for use in a medical
treatment. Other natural methodologies could be any physical action, product or by-
product that was not the result of human manipulation or processing.
For the purposes of this study, a natural cancer cure or treatment site (NCCTS) is any website
discovered in a search engine (in particular, results displayed via google.com), that explicitly mentions
any form of natural cure or treatment for any form of cancer.
Many natural healing sites tend to make a plethora of claims about the efficacy of their
products; while at the same, they have disclaimers in fine-print which state that their products are not
approved by the FDA and/or is not supposed to be used to treat or diagnose any medical condition. If
this is not the purpose of these sites, then what is their purpose? Treatment is exactly what these sites
are recommending and many do so explicitly.
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REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Most of the literature sources selected were primarily from government regulatory sites, news
sources, cancer research fields, historical publications, and skeptical articles via the internet. After an
extensive search, there were no books found which reference an evaluation of Natural Cancer Cures
and Treatments Promoted via the Internet. There are however a few dozen books and articles
debunking the practice of Naturopathy in general. Naturopathy is the belief that a vital energy is
responsible for keeping our body balanced and if misaligned, whether by abuse to the body in the form
of toxins, drugs, lack of exercise, bad diet, etc.. one's body can then be afflicted with disease
(Naturopathy, 2013). Only a few peer-reviewed studies were published that reference the efficacy of a
few natural substances that patients have used to treat cancer in vivo(Oregon State, 2009). Those
results did not support a natural treatment or cure for cancer alone. There were however, a few
websites which focus primarily on evaluating the claims of Natural and Alternative cancer treatment
websites. Two of particular mention are, Dr. Stephen Barrett of quackwatch.org, a retired psychiatrist
and watchdog for medical quackery promoted in any and all media forms... mostly online2. The other
is Dr. David Gorski3 of sciencebasedmedicine.com. These are two of the most mentioned names when
searching for articles that critically evaluate the claims made on NCCTSs; thus, some portion of their
research will be dotted throughout this study.
The Naturopathic field is wide and varied and there are many different kinds of natural products
2 See http://www.quackwatch.org/10Bio/bio.html
3 See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org
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that do in fact have some effect on cancer cells in vitro (Oregon State, 2009). This can be confusing to
the consumer as they continue to see reports that a particular natural substance “kills cancer cells”
(Feng, P. et al, 2012). The Naturopathic leaders and their followers, from reading over their material,
tend to take these in vitro studies and extend that research to humans without any supporting
documentation. There are a number of online journals and websites which discuss topics related to
distinguishing between science and pseudoscience (Stemwedel, 2011); as well as, many sites
addressing topics such as alternative therapies. There are a few books that discuss pseudoscience and
several books which condense and discuss the cultural aspects of science in the public and the pseudo-
scientific culture in general (Shermer, 1997).
Lastly, even though there is a plethora of considerable literature on natural cancer treatments
and cures, there are essentially no references to any peer-reviewed studies supporting it. In looking for
literature supporting the efficacy of natural treatments in vivo, there were no peer-reviewed studies
found supporting the claims of the NCCTSs.
Naturopaths
Though humans are living longer than ever, the fear of death still grips the populace.
Enumerable cancers threaten human populations and is still a big killer among humans (American
Cancer Association, 2013). In fact, cancer is on the rise (Crane, 2012). There are many kinds of cancer
and there are even more varied causes. Despite the incidences of cancer continuing to rise, cancer is
killing less than it did in the past (CDC Report, 2012). This is due to faster detection and better
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treatments, none of which have been attributed to the success of natural treatments.
Almost everyone has been touched by cancer in some way. Many of us may know of someone
that went in for radiation treatment for their cancer and unfortunately, that person may have died faster
as a result of treatment rather than the cancer itself. Radiation treatments tend to weaken the immune
system and when this happens, old and new pathogens can get inside the body and take up shop
(Cancer.org, 2009). When this happens and without quick treatment, a cancer sufferer could die from
nothing related to the cancer itself. This occurs however, much less than what the NCCTSs
successfully promote to the public (Gorski, 2010).
With so much fear-mongering online about traditional cancer treatments by the NCCTSs, one
would have to wonder if the associated risks are even worth the trouble at all. Surely, there must be a
better way. Time and time again, researchers continue to find natural agents that kill or ward off
infectious agents (Hood, J, 2013). A logical consideration, it seems then, is to wonder if something else
in nature is available that can fight cancer. Cultures from around the world have folk remedies that
they are convinced work for many ailments (Rao, G. et al, 2008). Researchers began to look at many
of these plants and herbs. Indeed, it was revealed that some of the folks remedies surrounding these
cultures have some merit. This must be the case with cancer it was thought.
Naturopathic doctors emerged to respond to the call of safer, better, and cheaper alternatives to
what traditional medicine has provided (Kirchfeld, F.. Boyle. W. 1994). Their primary office appears to
be online. Perusing the web provides quick and easy access to these medical saviors[sic]. With
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research having revealed that there is some strain with regard to trust between a physician and patient
(Pearson, 2000) and with less people going to the doctor (Tavernise, 2012), NCCTS provide an
attractive resource to turn to. Naturopaths can provide online consulting, non-invasive procedures, and
supplement pills that can be ordered online with just a click of a mouse.
Naturopaths have emerged in many fields of natural treatments; from foot fungal cures to
cancer. Naturopaths have setup accrediting agencies which grant a degree of N.D., a Doctor of
Naturopathy or a Naturopathic Doctor. Naturopathy is not considered a valid medical science by the
American Medical Association and they do not think that Naturopaths should operate under the title of
physician nor prescribe medications(S.B. 180, 2012). Naturopaths tend to work in private practice and
promote extensively online. Most Naturopathic physicians are supposed to operate within the
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) regulations determined by the FDA (FDA, 2007).
This allows Naturopaths to operate provided that they do not offer any medications or products which
contain labeling that specifies that their product is supposed to diagnose or treat any particular ailment;
or verbally mention as such. Due to these regulations, Naturopathic doctors are provided some level of
protection from regulations handed down by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 2013). To avoid
any legal issues, Homeopaths and Naturopaths simply have to ensure that they are not diagnosing or
treating any disease and that they refer clients to medical physicians for treatment and diagnosis.
The loop-hole however is one of trust and oversight. The Naturopath can offer his opinion
about what herbs may supplement his client's current regimen; however, what if there is no current
regimen? The supplements now become the treatment; at least in the client/patient's eyes. If they are
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seeing a traditional physician, are there contraindications? Is the Naturopath trained and skilled enough
to advise accordingly? Naturopathic doctors can recommend almost any product provided that the
product is legally able to be sold in the US, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and is
listed under the auspices of a supplement (FDA 2008). In this digital age, most people can find alleged
treatments and cures for a wide array of products. Sites selling these products don't, in reality, need to
tell the client what the product does as they have already found that information on some other NCCT
site; thus, it is hard for the FDA to go after companies selling supplements if the site selling the product
doesn't explicitly mention what it does.
As many natural supplement companies are protected as long as they aren't breaking any
consumer laws and remember to post modest disclaimers on their sites, they are protected under FDA
regulations. These companies are not protected from civil lawsuits however for false advertising
(Airborne... , 2008), nor are they totally safe if a consumer complains of medical issues related to the
Naturopath's recommendations (FDA, 2013, Warning Letters).
Despite the unregulated flow of many natural supplements, the FDA has made a recent attempt
to have more oversight in the supplement industry with the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act (S. 1310
—112th..., 2011). The bills purpose:
A bill to improve the safety of dietary supplements by amending the Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act to require manufacturers of dietary supplements to register dietary supplement
products with the Food and Drug Administration and to amend labeling requirements with respect to
dietary supplements.
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Unfortunately, the bill died in 2011 as there just wasn't enough support. It could be that
politicians simply aren't aware of the issues involved nor the seriousness of it. Perhaps they use
alternative medications themselves? This isn't clear but is perhaps another area of research to follow.
Some Natural Health organizations are upset over the attempt to make supplement companies
adhere to stricter regulations, they claim that consumers would be restricted to less natural options
(“Dietary Supplement Labeling Act” a Huge Smokescreen, 2011). Of course, these groups miss the
point; and that is that, many of these natural-oriented companies have not proven the efficacy of their
products in vivo, nor have they published any data on side-affects, or even possible deaths that may
have occurred as the result of their natural remedies. In many cases, many supplements and treatments
promoted on the web do not reveal the actual amount of the substance nor mention any potential health
risks. This can be extremely dangerous as this can lead to possible contraindications and/or health
affects; some quite severe (Singer, 2013). Not surprisingly, there are hundreds of lawsuits that have
been filed against makers of various supplement companies over the years (Meier, 2012).
In June 2009, NBC News featured a story reflecting a familiar story. It echoed the case of
Belinda Feinstein4 just a short year after her death (Cancer patients turning to alternative remedies,
2009). Leslee Flasch used a combination of herbs to treat her cancer and almost completely drained
her bank account. Like Belinda, she thought she could not afford traditional treatment and sought
cheaper, faster, and less toxic options. Like Belinda, by the time she realized that she should try a
4 Name was changed to protect her and her family's identity.
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traditional and more science-based treatment, she was inoperable. The cancer had metastasized.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers from the
University of Texas found that 99.3 percent of outpatient cancer patients at the school’s M.D. Anderson
Cancer Center had heard of complementary and alternative medicine, and that 83.3 percent had tried at
least one particular treatment (Richardson, et al, 2000). 60 percent of these patients said they did not
discuss complementary and alternative therapies with their doctor.
In an interview in 2009 (Marchione, 2009) Jeffrey White, the National Cancer Institute's
complementary and alternative medicine chief was quoted as stating:
We know that there's some harm going on. We just don't know the
magnitude of it.”.
The same article stated:
“A lot of these doctors prey on people's insecurities and need for hope,”
said Dr. Roy Herbst, Lung Cancer Chief at the University of Texas M.D.
Anderson Cancer Center.
Dr. David Gorski of ScienceBasedMedicine.com reports that typical “cancer Quackery” sites
encourage cancer sufferers to forego typical medical treatment, and also if the affected patient finally
does get traditional medical treatment and the cancer continues to plague them, “it's their fault for
trying traditional therapies”.
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The History of Cancer Cures and Treatments
Throughout antiquity the use of herbs permeated cultures to cure many ailments. Some
appeared to work miraculously while others didn't seem to work so well at all. Man learned the
principle of cause and effect but did not know the very many complexities we know today in a modern
scientific context. We now understand the importance of repeatability and falsifiability. We understand
confirmation of results from independent laboratories which can confirm our observations. Many
variables, we learned, can influence results: experimenter bias, ignorance, superstition, and a plaque of
other barriers.
Trial and error brought with it pain and misery. In ancient Egypt, breast cancers were removed
via what was called, a Fire Drill (The History of Cancer, 2012). As the name suggests it was a drill
used to create fires. They essentially bore a hole, using friction, into the victim's body to burn-out the
cancer. Such a treatment wouldn't have been very successful. In fact, the ancient papyrus that
describes this medical technique informs us that, “There is No Treatment” (The History of Cancer,
2012). In comparison with modern medicine, this treatment could easily be seen as archaic and brutal
today.
Modern science wasn't to be seen until the late 1700's and early 1800s (Rossi, 2001) but yet,
even in this age, mankind had its share of failed experiments, bad science, and pseudoscience in
treating cancer. As for pseudoscience, in the early 1900's it wasn't uncommon to have ads promising
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treatments and cures for a number of human ailments including cancer (Janssen, 1977). Pressure from
the FDA shut down many of these scammers only on the basis of false advertising. Realizing the
increasing dangers of these alternative medical practitioners, the FDA enacted a law in 1938 which
required that safety and efficacy must be proven before a drug is sold (FDA, 2012). Some practitioners
attempted to circumvent these new changes in the law by not having any medicine in their cures at all.
In 1940, Dr. David Koch of the Christian Medical Research League, was prosecuted a number
of times for making false claims that his drug could cure cancer. Upon analysis it was determined that
his “cure” was just filtered water. Koch charged his patients $300 and up per injection. Koch fled to
Brazil to avoid further legal battles stemming from a dismissal and narrowly avoiding jail time thanks
to a mistrial (Janssen, W. 1977).
In the 1950s, a practitioner of natural medicine arose by the name of Harry Hoxsey. He
developed a cancer cure dubbed, the Hoxsey Treatment. After the smoke cleared from lengthy legal
battles, it was determined that his treatment was ineffective. Consumers, in total, spent over 50 million
dollars for a useless treatment (Janssen, 1977). The number of deaths attributed to his natural remedy
is unknown. Despite the lack of evidence for the efficacy of the Hoxsey treatment, and even after 60
years of thorough debunking, the Hoxsey treatment is still being offered in Mexico as a bonafide cure
for cancer.5 The public appears to have some difficulty discerning what constitutes scientific
methodology (Durant, et al, 1989, Shermer, 1997). Perhaps to the lay-public, if it sounds like science,
it must be science.
5 See http://www.rebirthingbreathwork.com/node/50. This site sells a book and offers information to a clinic to visit to
receive the Hoxsey cancer treatment.
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The Public Understanding of Science
Forty years after Hoxsey, the public understanding of science is still disjointed. Science and
scientists continue to be a force to be admired, respected, and appreciated; and mostly every one agrees
(Michael, 1992), but the adequate understanding of science to prevent being scammed, or worse,
doesn't appear sufficient (Shermer, 1997). According to a 2004 study conducted by the National
Science Foundation, almost 10% of Americans believe that astrology is scientific; about 30% say they
don't know (NSF, 2004). A 2009 study conducted by the California Academy of Sciences learned that
< 50% of Americans don't know how long it takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun (CAS, 2009).
Recently, a joint 2013 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian revealed that 23%
of Americans don't accept or know for sure that Continental Drift has and is happening, 7% of
Americans think "Radon" is causing atmospheric warming, and it revealed that 10% of Americans
think that antibiotics are addictive (Pew Poll, 2013). Studies like these reflect a general lack of
necessary scientific knowledge about our world and a lack of critical faculties in the way the public
should analyze scientific sounding claims (Maienschein, 1999).
American society seems to be easily fooled by science-sounding material (Hill, 2010).
Obviously, not everyone is a scientist and it does require some manner of interest in science to
understand it. Though not everyone likes science or understands science, they do appreciate science.
So, when an article sounds promising such as the discovery of an all natural product that destroys
cancers. That is alluring in of itself; but to discern the scientific information properly and to know
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almost instinctively to search for evidence for such claims, requires a scientific and critical mind to
separate the wheat from the chaff. The science-talk that is prevalent in many of the NCCTSs are so
confusing to the public, that the science-sounding jargon has been coined “scientese” (Haard, et al.,
2004).
Studies have revealed to us that science and the science revealers, the scientists themselves, are
admired and carry a certain prestige (NSF, 2009). Unfortunately, the act of doing science and
understanding science is something altogether different. NCCTSs have a way of appealing to the
public that is familiar to the general public. Their sites wax emotional, cultural, relevant, urgent,
commonsensical; whereas, science is presented to the public in a way which is wholly unfamiliar to
them. In fact, scientific language is considered very unnatural. In scientific communication, words are
precisely defined, emotion is removed, and arguments must be sophisticated and concise (Hill, 2010, p.
11 ).
Humans have a tendency to feel secure the more we can control our environment (Maslow,
1970); thus, our natural instinct is to seek out concrete ideas for it gives us a sense of security. We live
more peacefully in a world of black and white. It's an illusion of control. In science, this just isn't the
case. In science we encounter statistical probabilities. Among scientists, words and phrases such,
“most likely the case”, “probably”, “hints at”, “could be”, is commonplace. The idea that science is
only as “reliable as it can be” right now, doesn't sit well with the human instinct to want immediate
answers (Ziman, 1978). Scientific thinking is not intuitive thinking, especially, to the non-scientist.
The confusion that the public feels with regard to understanding science is compounded with
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the variety of non-scientific and scientific media sources such as articles, blogs, television shows, and
even news sources all taking turns skewing or misrepresenting what the science really says (Freedman,
2013). Journalists and scientists at times may inadvertently misrepresent actual science facts and data.
Later this error may be revealed in the future or on another network or online. When this occurs, this
can be confusing to the public (Climate Central, 2011). This flip-flopping and misinformation confuses
the public and convinces some of the instability and unreliability of scientific methodology.
The NCCTS, in contrast with complicated and constantly revised and appended science
journals, have argued the same position mostly on their end, and that is that... Nature Heals. Of
course, this is a simplified outlook but this is the common mantra represented by all NCCTS. The
reality of course is that the NCCTSs piggyback off the backs of new scientific information when it suits
them. In many cases, they apply this new information incorrectly and in the wrong context, and/or for
the wrong use (Mercola, 2012). Armed with their new science terms and in vitro studies the NCCTS
webmasters post new material confirming what they have been saying all along, “Honey Cures
Cancer”[sic]. The public upon seeing the title and not following the links back to the original article
and not understanding the difference between an in vivo study versus an in vitro study, will now add
this to their long list of proofs that nature is better than science. It may be, but we would still have to
use modern science to discover it, process it, test it, and administer it.
Marketing arms for herbal companies, whether they believe in a product or not, know
immediately that a demand will be there after an announcement for some natural treatment or cure.
They know the impact of misinformation, and the proliferation of urban beliefs. In a matter of hours,
17
herbal companies develop a network of sites to funnel potential and newly converted believers. These
sites will be ripe with testimonials, photos of happy patients, and pages of alleged supporting
arguments defending the product, all with the intended purpose to drive up revenues. Whether these
companies really care about curing cancer patients is something that is suspect considering the lengths
they go to in marketing their products; and again, these products are released with no peer-reviewed
studies that prove their efficacy in vivo; and they know full-well that the public does not understand
some of the scientific-sounding jargon featured on their sites. They are simply taking advantage of the
public's ignorance and using scientific terms in an authoritative fashion to motivate a buying decision
(Dodds, Tseelon and Weitkamp, 2008).
What Do Peer-Reviewed Studies Say?
Though there aren't very many studies on the efficacy of Natural Cancer Cures and Treatments.
There are some studies which have shown a negative correlation to ingesting natural remedies and the
termination of cancer (Hietala, M., et al, 2011). M. Hietala and her team revealed two primary things:
1.) Cohort's breast cancer did not show to have been affected in
anyway from any natural substances ingested.
2.) The researchers noticed that many of the natural substances that
study participants were using could have reactions with other
natural substances and traditional treatments.
18
Researchers caution that much further study needs to be done on these alternative
treatments as so many of the cohorts were taking a combined total of 100 different
substances. Some of the study's participants were taking these natural substances along
with traditional treatments.
METHODOLOGY
Subjects
In this descriptive study, information was gathered from google.com results which reference
information pertaining to any natural cures and/or treatments for cancer. NCCT sites were evaluated on
whether or not the site was scientifically rigorous and on whether or not they displayed proper medical
concern for the public at large (medical responsibility). The unit of analysis is the entire NCCT website
and not just individual pages of the site. Some websites may have scientifically accurate and medically
responsible material somewhere within the pages of the site, but those sites may not be considered
scientifically rigorous if they lack consistency. The same is true with being evaluated for medical
responsibility. The NCCT site cannot mention contraindications on one page of the site but on another
page mention that their site visitors should throw away all traditional medications. As another
example: Some NCCTS may recommend or provide a traditional radiological treatment, while at the
same time, offer acupuncture, homeopathy, or some other alternative/natural type of therapy.
19
Procedure – Process and Reasoning
Websites featuring keywords pertaining to “natural cancer cures and treatments” were gathered
via google.com's search engine. Google was chosen as it is the most used search engine in the US with
over 11 billion searches a month6 (comScore, 2012). Most of the NCCTS appeared to be US based
websites.
As the research topic is about natural cancer cures and treatments, a search was conducted
explicitly searching for variations of such a genre/theme. Searching under the general phrase, Natural
Cancer Cures and Treatments, in google produced 20 million results.7 This determined that there is an
abundance of material related to NCCTS.
To evaluate interest in NCCTSs, a keyword analysis was conducted via Google AdWords
Keyword Analysis Tool (Appendix A). After searching for the phrase, Natural Cancer Cures and
Treatments, over 300 results were produced displaying relevant and related keywords to NCCTS and
cancer in general. Of the phrases related to only NCCTSs, significant repeated phrases were: “Natural
Cancer Cure, Natural Cancer Cures, Natural Cancer Treatments, Natural Cure for Cancer, Natural
Cancer Remedies, Natural Cancer Treatment”, “the Natural Cures for Cancer, “Natural Remedies for
Cancer Treatment.” and many other relevant combinations of terms. These phrases reflected searches
ranging from 12 thousand to 18 thousand searches a month. Conservatively, according to Google
Keywords8, these frequently searched phrases are searched at least a 1 million times a year9. The
6 Future studies may wish to incorporate more search engines. For the purpose of this study, we are focusing on the largest
search website: Google.com.
7 These results are all results related to these keywords including synonyms and other keywords Google Inc's engine has
determined as relevant to NCCTS.
8 Google Adwords: https://adwords.google.com
9 Monthly results reflect around: 87,200 for the 6 key phrases.
20
Google Adwords Analysis tool reflected that there are many other related keywords that would also
lead one to a NCCT site. Words such as Graviola, Holistic, Homeopathic, Ayurvedic, and Echinacea
were common search terms; of which, many are a major part of NCCT sites. Interestingly, there was
no recorded hits for the exact phrase, “Natural Cancer Cures and Treatments”; regardless; the number
of searches for key phrases in Google Adwords/Keywords related to NCCTSs invariably revealed that
there is a significant interest in NCCTSs10.
Procedure – Reviewing the subjects
After clearing the computer's browsing history, cookies and cache; the aforementioned
repeated-phrases were entered into google.com for searching. Upon entering the keywords for each of
the chosen phrases, random sites were chosen from each of the results, as well as on the “Next” result
links.11 Random Google-sponsored ads that appeared relevant (matching keywords relevant to the
study) were also included. In the course of reviewing an NCCT website, additional sites were added to
the collection if they appeared to support the claims of the primary NCCTS. The websites collected
eventually totaled 100. Sites were not chosen based on content, only that they were a site listed in the
results for specified aforementioned search phrases, quality was not a factor.
10 The highest related phrase was “Natural Cures” with over 8 million searches a year.
11 The Next Links did not exceed 5 pages of results. The randomizing was done to eliminate bias as well as to attempt to
avoid any artificial relevance by webmasters or even Google Inc itself.
21
Definitions
Each site will be evaluated as possessing, or not possessing, “Scientific Rigor”. Something
being scientific is first defined as: “Of, relating to, or exhibiting the methods or principles of science,”
(Scientific, 2013). Whereas, Science is defined as: “Knowledge or a system of knowledge covering
general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific
methods (Science, 2013).”
The scientific method is defined as, “Principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of
knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through
observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses” (Scientific Method, 2013).
Rigor is defined as: “Rigor is an attitude that contrasts with the weaknesses of human nature,
does not allow laziness, the lack of attention, the acceptance of inexact methods, the adoption of
groundless conclusions, accepting the predominant opinion despite the lack of data which sustain it.
….. Rigor demands us to accept the destruction of that beautiful idea by facts.” - Journal of
Biotechnology
Thus, for the purposes of this descriptive study: “Scientific Rigor” will be defined as:
The rigorous application of scientific methodologies to understand our
natural environment.
22
There is a second issue of concern, and that is whether or not the public is getting adequate
information with regard to how the treatment works, contraindications, etc. Therefore, there is another
category of evaluation with regard to the NCCTSs. Does the site show a level of responsibility with
regard to how they fashion their claims?
Showing Medical responsibility and Public Concern will be defined for this study as:
“Displaying adequate regard and a level of responsibility for the safety and welfare of potential
patients via the use of detailed information about procedures, contraindications, substance ingredients,
as well as providing warnings and disclaimers.”
The criteria to meet the challenge of being scientifically rigorous as well as showing medical
responsibility is specified via Appendices “C” and “D”, which is reflected below:
To qualify as Scientifically rigorous the NCCTS must show:
Proper Use of Scientific Terminology? - Does the site use science sounding jargon in the
proper contexts? Are the words real-science words or are they made up for the purposes of
trying to gain scientific credibility with the public?
Lists or Links to Peer Reviewed Studies in Reputable Journals? - Does the website refer to any
peer-reviewed studies to support any of the medical claims made by the website?
Provides Accurate Science Information? - Does the site provide accurate scientific
information? When researching the claims of the site, was there any documentation supporting
the efficacy of the treatment?
23
Displays Scientific Humility? - Is the site open to criticism? Does it allow falsifiability? Shows
even-handedness?
And not:
Promote Any Form of well established Pseudoscience? - Does the site promote any known and
established pseudosciences as medically sound treatments? Acupuncture, Homeopathy, etc.
Displays Excessive Marketing for Particular Products12? - The only goal appears to be a sale.
These sites usually lack decent accurate science information from which the consumer can
make the best decision.
To qualify as Being Medically Responsible13, NCCTSs must:
Display Adequate Disclaimers?
Provide information about Poison Control or Appropriate Agencies in case of an overdose.
List Contraindications? - Does the site warn the user that taking their suggestions or
medications may interfere with other medications?
Is even-handed and somewhat unbiased14 with respect to traditional medicine? Cannot be so
heavily biased and dogmatic as to not allow contrary information.
References consulting a doctor first?
Posts access to procedural information? - What is the treatment about?
12 What is meant by this is the obvious drive to focus on sales rather than offering consumer knowledge.
13 This is loosely based on the DISCERN evaluation tool for determining whether or not a medically oriented website is
producing quality consumer oriented information.
14 It is understood that some bias is expected with many of these sites; however, to evaluate an NCCTS site as being
medically responsible, it must show some ability to be open to criticism and the possibility of being wrong, after all this
is what scientific methodology is all about. Falsifiability.
24
Lists all ingredients in the product and the associated/measured amounts?
Site or Business Run by Medical Professionals in the Field15? Licensed and Recognized
Professionals?
Provides adequate contact information? - If the site is selling a product, the lack of email
addresses and phone numbers to actually speak to someone about these products can be
dangerous. This would be considered irresponsible.
Data Collection
Sites were listed in a table format, see Appendix E. Each NCCTS was given an ID number for
reference and the entries were listed randomly. Each site was evaluated based on their overall
scientific rigor and medical responsibility to the public. The NCCTSs were given an overall evaluation
of “pass” or “not pass” based on the total number of questions that were answered and that which
reflected answers indicative of scientific rigor and medical responsibility. Essentially, the litmus of
evaluation is grounded in the definition of scientific rigor and medical responsibility (as established
earlier). If the NCCT sites lacks this, they do not pass.
Ten of the sites that explicitly have treatment centers or sold products they devised16 were sent
an email, see Appendix B. Those questions asked:
Have you produced any or know of any peer-reviewed studies which support the
efficacy of your recommended treatment/cure in vivo?
Do you consider your treatment/cure scientific? Or Non-Scientific?
15 An N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathy) for instance is not considered a medical professional in that most Naturopathic
accrediting agencies allow homeopathic medicine and acupuncture. Two well established pseudo-sciences.
16 Uncertain where some of these Naturopaths get their products but some hint that they make them themselves.
25
Are you or any members of your staff trained in formal and/or traditional medicine?
Do you have any documentation showing the success rate of your treatment or
cure(s)?
Does your site provide warnings and/or contraindications when undergoing your
treatments or recommended treatments?
Does your organization advocate the use of treatments not considered scientific or
pseudo-scientific?
These answers will be recorded in the results and compared with other answers to
see if there is a commonality between NCCTSs.
Data Analysis
The NCCTSs were listed in a table and excerpts of their material were kept in a folder on my
desktop as well as links to supporting material that they may link to or mention.
A qualitative analysis was conducted reviewing the frequency of terms and/or products that
tended to be affiliated with pseudo-science, or “quack science” (Gorksi, D. 2012 & Barrett, S. 2008).
Independent research was also conducted by reviewing peer-reviewed literature concerning the efficacy
of one or more of the products listed at each NCCTS to confirm Scientific Rigor.
26
RESULTS
Trust Issues
The results show that NCCTSs tend to have a big distrust of pharmacology and pharmaceutical
companies (#32, #65)17. There are frequent comments by NCCTS users and/or explicit mentions
throughout some NCCT sites that warn the public with updates about government regulations which
may influence alternative medicine options in the future (#21, #33). There is an overwhelming belief
that traditional/orthodox physicians are driven solely by monetary interests and could care less about
their patients' health. There are also mentions that there are forces trying to prevent the consumer from
knowing about the many natural treatments and cures available.
Defensiveness
When outsiders post information contrary to the arguments put forth by NCCTS, there is a huge
resistance to entertain the arguments and evidence put forth. They are accused of being “deluded” or
“brainwashed” by the powers that wish to control us(#32).
17 Reference numbers correlate with the research data in Appendix E.
27
Responses to Questionnaire
Questionnaires were sent out to NCCTS that appear that they have facilities where they may
treat patients (#'s 30, 46, 55, 56, 63, 71, 76, 79, 87, 92). A few others wished to remain anonymous. Of
these, only 5 responded with answers. A few others informed me that they would send my questions
over to expert personnel but they were never heard from. Responses to questions follow.
Have you produced any or know of any peer-reviewed studies which support the efficacy of your
recommended treatment/cure in vivo?
To this question one responded, “Peer reviewed studies are rarely if ever funded to study
anything but pharmaceuticals and surgery. They are hardly a criterion for validity, considering their
success rate.” Another stated, “History is written by the victors. Big Pharma is winning”. In another
response, someone stated, “We have many testimonials at our website that prove the efficacy of our
treatments”. One organization emailed a Poster Abstract18 as evidence of peer-review.
These responses are hardly a direct response to the questions presented and presents an air of
defensiveness. The given responses thus far are equivalent to, “No, we don't have any evidence.”
18 A poster-abstract is essentially a summary of a study in presentation form. Almost every abstract is accepted for a poster
(Dr. Gorski). This is not the same as a peer-reviewed paper in a prestigious cancer journal for instance. Many colleges
have poster competitions around the nation. This doesn't mean that the results of their studies are accurate.
28
Do you consider your treatment/cure scientific? Or Non-Scientific?
From one representative, he stated, “Define scientific.... you mean validated only by studies that
i[sic] paid for, like all pharmaceuticals...?” Astoundingly, one respondent stated, “If you mean scientific
in that I have proven it to the science world, then no.”
Are you or any members of your staff trained in formal and/or traditional medicine?
“Define formal”, was one response to this question. Another responded that some of his staff
have accredited N.D.s and RNs on staff. Some alluded to the many years that their practice has been in
business. Another responded, “Yes, our Medical Director is a Naturopathic Doctor. The doctors at our
clinic in Mexico are MD's, we don't own or operate the clinic but we license them.”
Do you have any documentation showing the success rate of your recommended treatments or cure(s)?
80% of the respondents freely admitted to not having any documentation proving the success
rate of their treatments. Some alluded to personal testimonies on facebook and at their NCCT site.
Automatically, this would place these organizations outside of the “Scientifically Rigorous” category.
Does your site provide warnings and/or contraindications when undergoing your treatments or
recommended treatments?
29
One representative responded, “Yes, but there aren't many. These remedies are non-toxic and
natural”. Most responded with a simple affirmation that they do mention warnings and
contraindications of their products.
Does your organization advocate the use of treatments not considered scientific or pseudo-scientific?
One spokesperson responded, “You mean like chemotherapy and radiation? Only those that
have been proven to have better than a 10% success rate by independent assessments... which excludes
chemo and radiation.” When inquiring about reviewing those independent assessments, there wasn't a
response. Another NCCTS representative stated, “I don't understand what this means or what your
definition of scientific is.” And another responded, “Define pseudo-scientific”.
One spokesperson for one organization in almost every answer to the questionnaire, responded,
“Please read Dr. Gerson's book”. The exact book name, volume, or edition was not mentioned. Some
NCCTS's provided information about their treatments via a file attachment. None of the information
provided contained any references to any peer-reviewed studies showing the efficacy of their treatment
in vitro. In most cases, the information was a science lecture or reference to medical information that
had nothing explicitly to do with their particular cancer treatment methodologies.
Natural Cancer Treatment and Cure Products
30
Figure 1: below displays the breakdown of the most popular mentioned items, treatments, or
substances mentioned on the Natural Cancer Cure and Treatment Websites.
The most frequent occurrence was the actual mention of books for sale. At most of the
NCCTSs that were selling books, reports, cds or e-books, there was no specific mention of what the
buyer would be discovering in the book(#9, #12, #21, #36, #60, #62, #65, #68, #71, #74, #75, #76, #83,
#88, #89). Words such as, “secret” and “hidden cure” were used to entice their buyers.
The second largest category was “non-specified treatment” group. This is the group with trust
issues. 55% of these sites overtly attacked the FDA(#4, #22, #39, #59, #61, #67, #70, #90, #93) and
Figure: 1
31
any other organization that may push for more strict oversight on alternative medicine and therapies.
Some overtly referred to the FDA as, “the enemy”. There wasn't any particular item or product that
these sites recommended to obtain or purchase, but they all alluded to natural treatments, natural foods,
and other natural methods as being better for you.
Thirteen of the NCCTS made claims that “Herbs” were the cure for cancer but never provided
any examples of how this is the case (#8, #9, #28, #34, #47, #65). Detoxification is a frequent term
used by NCCTSs (#24, #26). Some sites were very ambiguous about what kind of detox while others
referred to Ion Foot Cleansing. Dr. Stephen Barrett considers Ion Foot Cleansing quack science
(Barrett, 2004) and explains why:
“Positive and negative ions cannot "resonate" throughout the body in response to
any such device. And the skin has no ability to excrete toxins. Real detoxification
of foreign substances takes place in the liver, which modifies their chemical
structure so they can be excreted by the kidneys which filter them from the blood
into the urine.”
Diet was frequently mentioned in getting rid of cancer by the NCCTSs and in particular, Fruits
and Vegetables (#7, #26, #99). Some NCCTS sites encouraged a Vegan diet only in order to beat
cancer. Juicing is sometimes coupled with colon cleansing treatment and is argued that it is a good
detoxifier for the body (#58). Juicing, related to the Fruits and Vegetables Group, was promoted by a
number of NCCTSs (#63, #79). Vitamins of various sorts were also mentioned having the power to kill
cancer(#5, #79, #91). Intravenous Vitamin C in particular was mentioned on 8 separate websites as a
32
viable treatment option in preventing cancer (#3) . The power of God, Religion, and Spiritually ranked
in at 7% of the NCCTS reviewed (#44, #48, #58, #86, #90).
Homeopathy appeared on about 5% of the websites surveyed and was even listed with some
facilities that superficially appeared reputable (#1, #2, #69). Other treatments mentioned were the
Gerson Therapy (#58, #63), hydrotherapy, blood-ozone therapy, Laetrile19(#32), Amigdalin, Graviola,
acupuncture(#69), and hypnosis. All of which do not have any links to peer-reviewed studies. Those
that claim they do, the links don't work, or the links don't go where they are supposed to go (#87, #97).
Some NCCTSs appear to be run by individual Naturopathic practitioners that claim to have
created a special formula that kills or stops cancer (#64, #71, #79). The product is usually at significant
cost to the consumer and is usually promoted alongside a book specially produced by the formula's
creator. The formulas are usually a mix of herbs, most of which are not disclosed entirely on the
website. One website boasted, “Drink this, and Cancer will come pouring out of your body (#83).”
Establishing Scientific Rigor and Medical Responsibility
Only 2 sites, according to the criteria designed met the standard of displaying both scientific
rigor and being medically responsible(#38,#10). The results show that out of the websites reviewed,
only 4% of them qualify as medically responsible.
19 Laetrile has been thoroughly debunked by Dr. Stephen Barrett at:
http://www.cancertreatmentwatch.org/alt/laetrile1.shtml
33
Language
There are some common language usages spread amongst the NCCTS that reflect “scientese” or
a variety of uncommon referents. With scientese, that is, the use of a wide-array of science-sounding
language which may or may not in reality reflect what these words actually mean... or they may
perhaps be using the science-jargon to sound more credible. An uncommon referent is a specific kind
of genre vocabulary word, which are only used within a particular collective/in-group. In many cases,
within the NCCTSs they are a combination of both. A collection of “scientese” and uncommon
referent words and phrases are: “enzymatic reactive”, “controlled amino-acid therapy(#77)”, “negative
ions”, “chelation therapy”, “oxygenative potential”, “autohemotherapy”, “biological processes”,
“diaphoretic (#51)”, “phytochemicals (#18)”, “Big-Pharma”, “detoxification”, “homeopathic”,
“holistic”, “medical mafia”, “photostimulation”, “homeostatic”, “Naturopathic doctor,” and
Figure: II
34
“nutriceutricals”.
Buzz Words
Many of the NCCTSs share a commonality in word usage. The top common words between
these sites are: “safe”, “gentle”, “non-toxic”, “treatment”, “cure”; with “Safe” being on 92% of the
NCCT sites. Common phrases shared between them are: “holistic”, “loved one(#95)”, “no side-
effects”, “someone you love”, “get informed”, “100% guaranteed(#96)”, “eliminate toxins” “god's
way”, and “the natural way” (#13, #15). Many of the NCCTS tend to have material designed to evoke
emotion. Many also, especially the book-sale oriented NCCTS, have a desperate call to action.
Fear Words and Phrases
Quite a number of the NCCT sites use negative emotional words to describe traditional
treatments, as well as, the doctors that use them, and some regulatory agencies. In referencing
traditional treatments, common descriptive terms are: “toxic” and “killer”(#11,#16, #39, #58, #81). A
few NCCT sites in particular stated that chemotherapy has only a 2% success rate(#15, #84). An
alarming rate which is in stark contrast to those that work in the oncology field (Gorski, 2011). A
number of NCCTSs refer to a “suppression” of knowledge about how dangerous radiation and
chemotherapy is versus how non-toxic and effective their natural cancer treatments are(#37). One
particular NCCTS stated unequivocally that, “.. chemo, radiation and debilitating surgery have
absolutely no long term survival value, because they do not address any of the underlying causes of
cancer(#66)”. One very alarmist NCCTS stated that, “97% of the cancer patients treated with standard
cancer treatments are dead(#72)”. In another, “... sunscreens breed cancer(#73)”.
35
Oddities
A few outliers at the NCCT sites are included below. These were products or treatments that
stood alone among a sea of other more familiar products. Among them were: Oncology massage,
hydrotherapy, minerals, autohemotherapy, weight loss, bee honey, bee venom, rodent tuber, low dose
chemo, dandelion root, baking soda and maple syrup(#100), flaxseed, frankincense, turmeric(usually
spelled incorrectly), perokerala, asparagus, brussel sprouts, sesium chloride, biobrand, green tea,
mistletoe, breathing exercises, hypnotherapy, amigdalin and marijuana(#92).
One particular NCCTS was for dogs, in which they state that “cancer is on the rise” in dogs and
that the intake of a Chinese mushroom extract (species not provided) has proven to cure dogs of cancer
in “scientific research trials”(#97). No references were provided which support this claim.
Who's at the Helm?
About 4% of the websites that appear to be representing a clinic, are in fact not real clinics or
even a medical site. They collect patient information and forward it to doctors in other countries, in
particular Mexico. Four of the responses received from the questionnaire were from representatives of
another company which was really the customer service arm for the clinic or group of clinics. I was
informed that they would need to send my questions to their “directors” or “doctors” in Mexico(#1,
#56, #57, #78). There has been no response to date.
36
Upon reading the biographies of some of the other Naturopaths, many have stories of doing
better health-wise after leaving some vice alone. Some claim they have been cured of cancer though
they have never gone back to a doctor since the original diagnosis. Some refer to themselves as
shamans, and others believe, or state they are, working for a god. Others seem truly sincere about
wanting to protect members of their community from what they perceive as a threat to human health.
Study Limitations
This study is limited to the possibility that some of the products mentioned one day may in fact
be proven to be effective in vivo. At current, none have proven any efficacy in vivo. The study is also
limited by sample size. There are possibly hundreds of thousands of sites on the internet discussing
and promoting natural cancer treatments and cures. This study also cannot be reproduced in exactly the
same way as google.com search results vary; however, it is important to recognize that we are
evaluating a general landscape20. A number of websites since the inception of the study could be
defunct. This study reflects results from a 4 month time span. Researchers in the future may wish to
take a look at the quality of sites in the future as a comparison to watch how things (information
content, rigor, etc) change over time.
Even with adequate scientific definitions in place and the partial use of DISCERN21 as a
guideline with respect to Medical Responsibility, it could be argued that this cross-sectional survey is
subjective in its approach to what is Scientifically Rigorous and what is Medically Responsible. Like
20 Though results may change. This study is properly evaluating what kinds of information tend to recur.
21 DISCERN is a brief questionnaire which provides users with a valid and reliable way of assessing the quality of written
information on treatment choices for a health problem. Reference: http://www.discern.org.uk/
37
many descriptive studies, this determination will be left to the reader.
Lastly, not all people interested in NCCTS will search specifically for Natural Cancer Cures and
Treatments via google.com. According to the results from Google Keyword Analysis (Appendix A)
there is a wide array of searched topics related to NCCTSs but which still contain much of the same
bad-science. It is truly difficult to know to what extreme interest may be in NCCTS; but to put things
in perspective, searches for Echinacea alone are around 68 thousand a month.
CONCLUSIONS
Natural cancer cures and treatment sites are a very alluring prospect for many people that don't
find science-based and/or traditional medicine palatable. There is mistrust among NCCT sites of the
government, in particular the FDA. It is unknown why this mistrust is so prevalent.
The lack of science and scientific knowledge, assuredly lends help to the creation of such sites
and the lack of critical thinking and research skills may also be fostering beliefs in these products. The
ability for NCCTSs to package their material and information in more down-to-earth and relateable
ways may also foster the appeal to such groups. There is a strong lack of scientific understanding
among many adherents of NCCTS; however, the NCCTSs use just enough “scientese” to sound
competent, convincing, and authoritative; while at the same time, they effectively touch the emotional
centers of their site's visitors using convincing rhetoric.
38
The history of providing the public with hope in a bottle is wrought with death and despair, yet,
despite this, the public continues to follow suit in the same damaging tradition. It appears that the cycle
will continue as fresh new victims log-in and begin their search, unaware of the history of Naturopathic
medicine[sic] and blindly unaware of science methodology, research methodology, and critical
analysis. There is an overwhelming amount of alternative and natural cancer treatments on the web
driven by not only ignorance, but also by large for-profit machines in the natural treatment business; for
which, they unashamedly inundate treatment seekers with ads for their products. Products which have
not one shred of evidence for its efficacy in vivo. The results of the study opened some considerations
for what mechanisms are responsible for the proliferation of NCCT sites, but was not focused on in-
depth.
The complete and utter lack of links to adequate peer-reviewed studies was astounding. The
majority of responses received from those that did fill out the questionnaire was either dismissive
and/or defensive. Some did answer honestly and professionally, but the information received
confirmed an utter lack of scientific methodology and understanding.
Of the NCCT sites selling products or delivering treatments, absolutely none of them provided
peer-reviewed articles showing the efficacy of their product in vivo. In every case, there wasn't even
an attempt to explain how their alleged the natural cure or treatment worked. The “evidence” was all
anecdotal, testimonial, or simply brash leaps of logic from in vitro studies.
A number of responses received reflected a true desire to help humans live more healthy lives.
39
This is a positive goal that provides a healthy bridge to build upon between the traditional scientific
community and the Naturopathic side. Unfortunately, with the continued lack of sound reasoning, and
cult-like paranoia these sites, groups, organizations, and individuals display, their just isn't much
common-ground to stand upon. NCCTSs promote the idea that the government wants you sick; thus,
why listen to anyone that supports them? Most NCCT sites explicitly state that they don't trust
anything the government tells them about medicine or food.
Public understanding of science professionals, professionals researching human motivation, and
those working in public policy may find this study another reflection of what has been already feared.
There is a huge science-understanding gap in American culture and in fact around the world. Not only
this, there is a wide-gap in the critical evaluative process. Patients, and in many cases, victims of these
NCCTS do not have the foundational skills to critically evaluate what they are supposed to be
comprehending. The lack of science-knowledge coupled with the lack of higher-order thinking is
allowing NCCTS patrons to be coaxed into purchasing products that have no proven effect. In some
cases, invasive procedures are performed by Naturopathic doctors which have no clinical efficacy or
intellectual support among experts in the oncology field.
When a natural cancer treatment seeker goes online to search for “natural cures for cancer” in
google.com, he is provided with a sea of results which are all mostly biased towards natural treatments
and cures. Within this sea, it is extremely difficult to find any sites critically evaluating their claims
unless you add either, “scam”, “hoax”, “bullshit”, or “skeptical”... appended to those keywords.
Unfortunately, this means that sites speaking out against NCCTS's claims will get drowned out by the
40
numerous results for natural cancer cures and treatments.
One possible solution to the problem would be to have many more skeptical and health sites
linking to each other with accurate and relevant information with regard to Natural Cancer Cures and
Treatments. We need many more articles, papers, journals, and studies concerning NCCT. Fortunately,
the influence of NCCT products on television isn't as pronounced as online, though there is a recurring
presence of quack science every so often.
There are assuredly a wide-variety of reasons why people search for Natural Cancer Cures and
Treatments on the web, and some of those have been discussed, but those reasons are not analyzed in
depth and are beyond the scope of this research. Future research in that area would be beneficial in
helping understand the psychological aspects which drive the creation of so many NCCTS and
facilities. However, based on the information provided by the NCCTSs we can ascertain that the
patrons of such sites have a distrust of non-natural medicines, a distrust of pharmacology, and a distrust
of the government. In the UK, a report showed that there is also just a general fear of visiting doctors
and hearing what the diagnosis may be (Huffington Post, 2012). 40% of people that suspect they may
have cancer, simply don't go to the doctor. Possibly, if they would have seen a doctor when the first
signs of cancer were apparent, they may have survived. With such fear abound of visiting a doctor for
problems, it does follow then that there would be wide interest in self-treatment. Unfortunately, the
internet is overrun with materials to tease the palettes of many a cancer sufferer, or even, possible
cancer sufferer.
41
More information is required on the impact that NCCTS may be having on cancer treatment
seekers. How many patients have been referred to their services? From where? How many patients
have they treated? What was the patient's status before seeking treatment? After treatment? What are
the success and failure rates? What is their standard for success and failures? What other kinds of
harm have they created? Financial strain? False hope? Damage to family cohesion? What are the
opinions and thoughts of the cancer treatment seeker when searching for Natural Cancer Treatments
and Cures?
As more and more Naturopathic organizations are formed and obtaining state licensure22, what
affect will that have on the future of medicine? Can traditional medicine adopt Naturopathic medicine
and make the standards more rigorous? Is there a compromise somewhere?
22 http://www.camlawblog.com/articles/licensure-and-credentialing/Naturopathic-physicians-win-california-licensure
Site tracking N.D.'s getting licensure in various states.
42
APPENDIX A: Key Words and Phrases
Variations of Keywords Recognized which reflect: Natural Cure for Cancer, Natural Cancer Cure,
Natural Cancer Treatment, Natural Cancer Cures, and Natural Remedies for Cancer, Natural Cancer
Treatments, The Natural Cure, Natural Cancer Remedies etc..
Actual results was 449. A full search can be conducted at https://adwords.google.com. Search for
“natural cancer cures and treatments”.
Keyword Rounded Monthly Searches
natural cancer cures and treatments 0
the natural cure for cancer 18100
the natural cancer cure 18100
natural treatments for cancer 18100
natural treatments cancer 18100
natural treatment of cancer 18100
natural treatment for cancer 18100
natural treatment cancer 18100
natural cure to cancer 18100
natural cure of cancer 18100
natural cure for cancer 18100
natural cure cancer 18100
natural cancer treatments 18100
natural cancer treatment 18100
natural cancer cure 18100
cancer treatment natural 18100
cancer natural treatments 18100
cancer natural treatment 18100
cancer natural cure 18100
natural cancer cures 14800
natural remedies to cure cancer 14800
natural remedies for cancer 14800
natural remedies cure cancer 14800
natural remedies cancer 14800
natural cancer remedies 14800
natural remedies for cancer treatment 12100
Data Provided by Google Keywords/AdWords, March 2013.
43
APPENDIX B: Email Request
Dear Natural Cancer Treatment or Cures Practitioner:
I am a graduate student analyzing the use of various scientific methods used by promoters and
practitioners of Natural Cancer Treatments or Cures on the web. I have identified you, your company,
your clinic, or your website(s) as one that supports the use of Natural substances to treat and/or cure
cancer. This determination was made based on verbiage displayed on a website with your contact
information. I would be most grateful if you could address a few simple questions I have concerning
your Natural Cancer Treatment and/or Cure. Please respond to the inquiries listed below.
1. Have you produced any or know of any peer-reviewed studies which support the efficacy of your
recommended treatment/cure in vivo?
2. Do you consider your treatment/cure scientific? Or Non-Scientific?
3. Are you or any members of your staff trained in formal and/or traditional medicine?
4. Do you have any documentation showing the success rate of your treatment or cure(s)?
5. Does your site provide warnings and/or contraindications when undergoing your treatments or
recommended treatments?
6. Does your organization advocate the use of treatments not considered scientific or pseudo-scientific?
Thank you for your invaluable time. Your responses can remain confidential if you'd like.
Please email me your responses by March 15, 2013. Please send to: rvfinley@buffalo.edu
Thank you again for your invaluable time and consideration,
Reginald V. Finley Sr
44
APPENDIX C: Data Collection
Checklist for Scientific Rigor
Website: _____________________________________
Yes No Unknown
Proper Use of Scientific Terminology?
Lists or Links to Peer Reviewed Studies in Reputable
Journals?
Provides Accurate Science Information?
Promotes Any Form of Pseudoscience?
Displays Scientific Humility?
Displays Excessive Marketing for Particular Products?
Overall Evaluation _______________________
45
APPENDIX D: Data Collection
Checklist for Medical Responsibility
Website: _____________________________________
Yes No Unknown or N/A
Displays Adequate Disclaimers?
Links to Poison Control or Appropriate Agencies?
Lists Contraindications?
Is even-handed with respect to traditional medicine?
References consulting a doctor first?
Posts access to procedural information?
Lists all ingredients in product?
Site or Business Run by Medical Professionals in the
Field? Licensed Professionals?
List all ingredient amounts?
Provides adequate contact information?
Overall Evaluation: _______________________
46
APPENDIX E: NCCTS Identification
Google Search* Keywords: “Natural Cancer Cure”, “Natural Cancer Cures”, “Natural Cure for
Cancer”, the Natural Cancer Cure”, “Natural Cancer Treatment(s)”.
Must meet all established criteria to be considered Scientifically Rigorous
Must meet all established criteria to be considered Medically Responsible
Note: Sites are listed randomly and numbering is for reference only.
UNK = Not Determined
N/A = Not Applicable
ID # Company, Individual, or
Treatment
Website and Info Med/Resp Sci/Rig
1 Cancer Treatment
Centers of America (ad)
http://www.cancercenter.com Yes No
2 Sunridge Medical (ad) http://www.sunridgemedical.com/cancercare No No
3 Alternative Cancer
Treatment Center
http://www.anoasisofhealing.com Yes No
4 Alternative Cancer
Treatments (Mother
Nature Knows Best)
http://www.cancertutor.com No No
5 Vitamin D the natural
cancer cure
http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-
page-link.aspx?n=509
No No
6 Natural Cancer Cure -
YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdGFBBSlIvI No No
47
7 Mother Earth News http://www.motherearthnews.com Yes No
8 Natural Cancer Cure http://www.natural-cancer-cure.net No No
9 Fighting Cancer http://www.fightingcancer.com No No
10 Doctors Health Press http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/tag/natural-
cancer-cure
Yes Yes
11 Examiner http://www.examiner.com/article/cure-for-all-
cancers-the-natural-cancer-cure
No No
12 EZ Lead Capture http://www.ezleadcapture.com/member/naturalca
ncercure.htm
No No
13 Underground Health
Reporter
http://undergroundhealthreporter.com/tag/natural
-cancer-cure
No No
14 Great Dreams – The
Cure for Cancer
http://www.greatdreams.com/cancer-cure.htm No No
15 BubbleWS http://www.bubblews.com/news/157227 No No
16 Natural News http://www.naturalnews.com/035296_frankincen
se_cancer_natural_cure.html
No No
17 Medical Mushroom http://medicinalmushroominfo.com/new-
evidence-on-coriolus-versicolors-ability-to-fight-
cancer-emerges/
No No
18 Tools for Freedom http://www.toolsforfreedom.com/Graviola-
Natural-Cancer-Cure-p/1054.htm
No No
19 The Doctor Within http://www.thedoctorwithin.com/cancer/to-the-
cancer-patient/
No No
20 Natural Cancer Cure -
Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv3hqLi3Bos No No
21 NaturalCures.com – http://store.naturalcures.com/p/14/the-natural- No No
48
Your Alternative to
Drugs and Surgery
cancer-cure-special-report
22 Andrew Plimmer http://www.andrewplimmer.com/health-and-
wellness/natural-cancer-cure-man-who-cured-
lung-cancer.html
No No
23 Archive.org http://archive.org/details/natural_cancercure No No
24 Organic Lifestyle
Magazine
http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/issue-
13/cure-cancer-naturally.php
No No
25 Raw for Beauty http://www.rawforbeauty.com/blog/673-graviola-
a-natural-cancer-cure-stronger-than-chemo.html
No No
26 Healing Cancer
Naturally
http://www.healingcancernaturally.com/naturalca
ncer-curetestimonials.html
No No
27 Yahoo Voices http://voices.yahoo.com/interview-woman-
cured-breast-cancer-naturally-1309703.html?
cat=68
No No
28 Prokerala http://www.prokerala.com/health/diseases/cancer
/natural-cancer-cure.php
No No
29 Agent Sentral http://agentsentral.com/index.php/advice/health/
499-guyabano-is-natural-cancer-cure-cancel-
cell-killer.html
No No
30 Mexican Cancer Clinics
(ad)
http://www.mexicancancerclinics.com No No
31 Purespores http://www.purespores.com/index.htm No No
32 The Freedom Articles http://freedom-
articles.toolsforfreedom.com/natural-cancer-
No No
49
cure-laetrile/
33 My Home Remedies http://www.myhomeremedies.com No No
34 Natural Cancer Cure http://naturalcancercure.hubpages.com/hub/Natu
ral-Cancer-Cure-Treatments
No No
35 Natural News http://www.naturalnews.com/033757_cannabis_
oil_cancer_cure.html
No No
36 Youtube.com – Best
Natural Cancer Cure
Book
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-
Gb1TCQsudI
No No
37 Natural News TV http://tv.naturalnews.com/v.asp?
v=665bb056c94f5907821a5a271fe26435
No No
38 MDAnderson http://www.mdanderson.org Yes Yes
39 One Cancer Cure http://www.onecancercure.com No No
40 Natural News http://www.naturalnews.com/033219_cancer_cur
es_treatments.html
No No
41 Youtube – Cancer
Lifestyle Change Cure
http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=R3R9T9tGofs
No No
42 Fitnosis http://www.fitnosis.net/asparagus-all-natural-
cancer-cure
No No
43 Humana Blogspot http://humanahealthcare.blogspot.com/2009/07/c
ancer-cure.html
No No
44 Hubpages – Brussel
Sprouts Kill Cancer
http://einron.hubpages.com/hub/brusselsproutski
llcancer
No No
45 Living Healthy http://www.sunjournal.com/news/2013-healthy-
living/2013/01/11/vitamins-and-cancer-
prevention/1299591
No No
50
46 Dr. Raus Way http://www.drrausway.com/paracelsus-
clinics/treatments-therapies/cancer-
treatments.aspx
No No
47 Natural Cancer Cures http://naturalcancercures.net/ No No
48 Utopia Wellness (ad) http://www.utopiawellness.com/alternative-
cancer.php
No No
49 Natural Cancer
Treatments
http://cancercuretreatments.org/natural-cancer-
cures/
No No
50 Body of Health (ad) http://bodyofhealthandlife.com/Cancer-Care-
Oncology-Massage.html
No No
51 CureZone - Essiac http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=967038 No No
52 Essiac – Nature's Cancer
Treatment
http://ezinearticles.com/?Essiac---Natures-
Cancer-Treatment&id=5731134
No No
53 Rodent Tuber http://www.herbalbless.com/2012/03/cancer-
treatment-with-rodent-tuber.html
No No
54 Cancer Punch http://cancerpunch.blogspot.com/2008/02/cancer
-treatment.html
No No
55 No Side Effects (ad) http://www.mexicancancerclinics.com No No
56 Oasis of Hope http://www.oasisofhope.com No No
57 Oasis of Healing http://www.anoasisofhealing.com No No
58 Healing Cancer
Naturally
http://www.healingcancernaturally.com No No
59 Life Positive.com http://www.lifepositive.com/body/body-
holistic/cancer-cure/cancer-cures.asp
No No
60 Natural Horizons http://www.nhwellnesscenters.com/treatment-
programs/cancer-therapy
No No
61 Natural Cancer http://naturalcancertreatment.org No No
51
Treatment
62 People Against Cancer http://www.peopleagainstcancer.com No No
63 The Gerson Institute http://gerson.org/gerpress No No
64 The Life One Formula http://www.lifeone.org No No
65 Natural Cancer
Treatments
http://naturalcancertreatments.com.au No No
66 Say No to Chemo http://www.holimedex.com No No
67 Natural-cancer-
treatments
http://pinterest.com/netizenpros/natural-cancer-
treatments
No No
68 Opting for Natural
Cancer Treatments
http://www.draxe.com/opting-for-natural-cancer-
treatments
No No
69 Georgia Integrative
Medicine
http://www.georgiaintegrativemedicine.com No No
70 What are Natural Cancer
Treatments?
http://indian-guman.blogspot.com/2012/05/what-
are-natural-cancer-treatments.html
No No
71 The Brantley Cure (ad) http://www.brantleycNoure.com No No
72 Cancer Tutor (Damaged
DNA doesn't care
cancer)
http://www.cancertutor.com No No
73 Natural News Article http://healthrangerupdate.wordpress.com No No
74 Bad Science Blind Truth http://badscienceblindtruth.wordpress.com No No
75 Beating Cancer Gently http://www.beating-cancer-gently.com No No
76 New Hope Health Clinic http://www.holistic-medicine-natural-
healing.com
No No
77 AP John Cancer Institute https://www.apjohncancerinstitute.org No No
78 Hope For Cancer http://www.hope4cancer.com No No
79 Budwig Center http://www.budwigcenter.com No No
80 Natural Health 365 http://www.naturalhealth365.com No No
52
81 Alternative Cancer http://www.alternative-cancer.com No No
82 Natural Horizons http://www.nhwellnesscenters.com No No
83 Cancer Defeated http://cancerdefeated.com No No
84 Cancer Shield http://www.cancershield.net No No
85 Cancer Fighting
Strategies
http://www.cancerfightingstrategies.com No No
86 The Natural Body
Center
http://naturalbodyofflorida.webs.com/godsrxmiss
ion.htm
No No
87 Alternative Cancer
Solution
http://www.alternativecancersolution.com No No
88 Alternative and Natural
Cancer Books
http://www.cancerbooksonline.org No No
89 Cancer is Curable Now http://maxawareness.com/shop-2/cancer-is-
curable-now
No No
90 Cancer Research
Awareness
http://www.cancer-research-
awareness.com/alternative-cancer-treatment-
statistics.html
No No
91 Cancer Active – Vitamin
D
http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-
page-link.aspx?n=509
No No
92 Beechwood Therapy http://www.beechwoodtherapy.com/blog/tag/natu
ral-cancer-cure
No No
93 Natural Cures Not
Medicine
http://www.naturalcuresnotmedicine.com No No
94 Sedona Wellness http://detoxsedona.com/Sedona_Wellness_Retre
at/Welcome.html
No No
95 Cancer Truth http://www.cancertruth.info No No
96 Natural Cancer Cure http://www.naturalcancercurefoods.com/cancer- No No
53
Foods natural-cure-secrets.html
97 Heal Your Dog
Naturally
http://healyourdognaturally.com/blog/uncategori
zed/natural-cancer-cure-for-dogs
No No
98 Skeptics http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/102
29/does-thc-cure-slow-cancer
No No
99 Humans are healthy http://humansarehealthy.com/2011/10/natural-
cancer-cure-by-dr-hoover.html
No No
100 Baking Soda Cancer
Cure
http://noartificial.com/baking-soda-cure-cancer No No
The results of the keywords may change as google has various algorithms to rank search results;
also, new websites and articles may surface after the conclusion or even during the study. Ads
may also change from time to time. This list was generated between January 26h through
February 1st, 2013.
54
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