A higher proportion of cancer survivors in the United States report use of vitamins/minerals and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) compared with cancer-free adults, a study published in the Journal of the Cancer Survivorship has shown.1

Because previous research has demonstrated that US cancer survivors frequently use vitamins/minerals and CAM, researchers sought to compare the use of these therapies between adult cancer survivors and cancer-free adults and to estimate the annual out-of-pocket expenses of such treatments.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on self-reported vitamin/mineral and CAM use in 2977 adult cancer survivors and 30 551 without a diagnosis of cancer.

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Results showed that approximately 79% of cancer survivors and 68% of those without cancer reported using 1 or more vitamins/minerals and/or CAM in the last 12 months. Researchers found that cancer survivors were more likely to report using vitamins/minerals (P<.001), non-vitamin/mineral natural products (P<.001), manipulative and body-based therapies (P=.03), and alternative medical systems (P=.04).

In terms of expenses, the study demonstrated that adult cancer survivors spend an estimated $6.7 billion out-of-pocket annually on vitamins/minerals and CAM compared with $52 billion by cancer-free adults. The majority of those expenses were for vitamins/minerals.

The findings suggest that studies are warranted to analyze health outcomes of cancer survivors who take vitamins/minerals and use CAM, as well as to evaluate the cost-to-benefit ratio of such use.


1. John GM, Hershman DL, Falci L, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine use among US cancer survivors [published online ahead of print February 26, 2016]. J Cancer Surviv. doi:10.1007/s11764-016-0530-y.