Farrah Fawcett died today following a relapse of the anal cancer that she battled for the past three years.   I’m wondering what effect the high profile death will have on cancer awareness and the use of “alternative” therapies, in particular.  I’m not optimistic.

From what I have been able to gather, she was first diagnosed in Sep 2006 and following regimen of standard therapies, was declared cancer-free in Feb 2007.  A few months later doctors discovered a small polyp during a routine exam, and apparently she sought “alternative” treatment in Germany this time around.  I have been unable to determine exactly what the treatment was, although it’s been reported that it consisted of a combination of chemotherapy and natural supplements.

We don’t know what the specific treatment was, but we do know that it was not effective.  We’ll never know whether the “alternative” approach would have saved her life if she tried it first.  (I suspect not since natural supplements have no clinical record of curing cancer.)  Also, we’ll never know if the relapse would have been successfully treated by physicians using the latest FDA-approved, science-based treatments.  We won’t ever know those answers, but I do know that there will be loads of people claiming to.

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If you’re concerned about the dwindling populations of animals such as bears, rhinos, tigers, turtles, and sharks, consider the effects of using ‘Natural’ and ‘Alternative’ Medicines before you go spend your money on them.  Hundreds of species of plants are on the verge of extinction as well due to pre-scientific ideas about physiology, disease, and healing.

In many cases, the purported uses of the herbs and animal components have not been clinically verified.  In most cases, they have been shown ineffective or there is no plausibility of effectiveness.  When there has been a clinical effect, the active ingredient is typically isolated and synthesized.  Despite these facts, the consumption of natural resources for no reason continues, and does so at an alarming rate.

Got a few minutes?  Listen to Dr. Mark Crislip’s scathing review of the effects of TCM and other (S)CAM modalities on the environment: http://www.quackcast.com/spodcasts/files/archive-12-april-2009.html