- Posted by jdavis on August 31, 2011
Alternative treatments are focused on preventing rather than treating skin cancer. In addition, some CAM treatments may reduce the side effects of conventional treatments. While many CAM treatments have not yet undergone rigorous scientific research, evidence suggests that some treatments may be useful when applied along with conventional treatments for skin conditions, including skin cancer. You should never rely on alternative therapies alone for treating skin cancer.
Eating certain foods or following therapeutic diets may help prevent skin cancer. It is hard to test the role of nutrients in protecting against various forms of skin cancer, but several studies have investigated the role of antioxidants (including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and vitamin A), folic acid, fats and proteins, and a variety of whole foods. While results are not absolutely clear, there may be some protective effect from antioxidants. There may also be a protective effect from foods such as fish, beans, carrots, chard, pumpkin, cabbage, broccoli, and vegetables containing beta-carotene and vitamin C. Studies on animals suggest that lignans, substances found in foods such as soy and flaxseed, may also help fight cancer in general, including the spread of melanoma from one part of the body to another.
Other substances found in plants may help protect the skin from sun-related damage. These include:
- Apigenin, a flavanoid in vegetables and fruits, including broccoli, celery, onions, tomatoes, apples, cherries and grapes, and in tea and wine
- Curcumin, in the spice turmeric
- Resveratrol, in grape skins, red wine, and peanuts
- Quercetin, a flavanoid in apples and onions
Selenium has been touted as an antioxidant that might help prevent skin cancer. One study, however, suggests that selenium might actually increase the risk of developing squamous cell cancer.
Therapeutic diets may also help with skin cancer. An example of this is the Gerson diet, which is customized for each patient. This diet may enhance treatment of melanoma. It strives for a low-fat, low-salt diet, hourly feedings of highly concentrated raw fruit and vegetable juice nutrients, and strategies to speed up metabolism (the breakdown and use of food), such as exercise, taking supplements, and restricting calories. Castor oil, administered every other day for several weeks, and coffee enemas given as frequently as every 4 hours over a 24-hour period, are thought to alleviate pain and improve nutritional status.
Naturopathic doctors and botanists recommend a number of herbs and herbal combinations to prevent and treat cancer in general. To identify appropriate herbs to use in your treatment for skin cancer, see a trained herbalist, who will consider your condition and may prescribe herbs to support your care.
Green tea ( Camellia sinensis ) contains polyphenols, compounds that are potent antioxidants. Antioxidants eliminate free radicals, harmful by-products of cells’ metabolism that are thought to play a role in cancer. The main polyphenol in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Scientific studies suggest that EGCG and green tea polyphenols may prevent the onset and growth of skin tumors.
Other herbs with antioxidant and skin-protecting effects include bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba ), milk thistle ( Silybum marianum ), ginger ( Zingiber officinale ), and hawthorn ( Crataegus laevigata ).
For Kaposi’s sarcoma, some naturopaths recommend a paste made from lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis ) cream, several drops of Hoxsey-like formula (a mixture of herbs and potassium iodide thought to be effective against cancer), and powdered turmeric applied to lesions twice a day.
An animal study conducted in China investigated the effects of Cordyceps sinensis on natural killer cells. These are white blood cells that attack cancer and other harmful substances in the body. The study found that Cordyceps sinensis was effective against malignant melanoma by promoting natural killer activity and inhibiting tumor formation.
You should remember that certain herbs and nutrients can alter the way medications, including chemotherapy, act in your body. Make sure you keep your conventional and alternative health care providers informed about all the supplements, therapies, and medications you are using.