Don’t be conned by cancer “Cures”

Over the years, the members of the Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Association of Australia, have been approached by members of the public with claims of natural “cures” for asbestos related diseases and/or their symptoms.  We have had people write us letters offering our members access to homemade remedies claimed to reverse the onset of mesothelioma; topical creams made from backyard garden weeds; special medical treatment using microwave technology… the list is diverse and frightening.  None of these claims were ever supported by scientific studies or trials, and alarmingly, most would cost our members large sums of money.  While some of these approaches were made by well meaning individuals, the vast bulk were from “snake oil salesmen” seeking to make a quick buck from the desperation of our most vulnerable members who are willing to try anything to halt the rapid progression of their cancer or reverse the damage to their bodies caused by asbestos.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous claims are being made across the board when it comes to the treatment, management and prevention of cancer.  A recent article by Tanya Ha (Director of Engagement at Science in Public, former journalist of ABC’s Catalyst program, and Executive Committee/Board member of Science and Technology Australia) highlights this problem. Using her science background and research nous, Ms Ha assisted her sister in navigating the various claims when it came to the treatment of her sister’s breast cancer.  And it wasn’t that some of the information provided wasn’t useful to her sister, it’s just that a lot of it was just plain wrong, dangerous or unfounded.  Ms Ha also notes that while people mean no harm by giving their support and advice to cancer patients, they are in fact adding to the “noise” around the patient – it is often overwhelming to deal with a diagnosis let alone wade through information trying to filter the helpful from the harmful.

The full article, Cancer and ripe bananas: How bogus claims can harm your health and the people you love” is worth a read and can be accessed online: 

The reality is, there are hard working, honest scientists and researchers working around Australia and across the world, seeking to find ways to reduce the impact of asbestos on people’s health.  Australia leads the way with the many developments and achievements in this field by our cutting edge researchers at institutions across the country, including the team at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (headed by Prof Ken Takahashi and formerly by Prof Nico van Zandwjk).  It is paramount to the safety and wellbeing of our members that the medical claims made to our members are valid, scientifically robust and ethically sound.  We do not want our members to be used as “guinea pigs” for no benefit or indeed sold “false hope” for exorbitant prices.

So the next time you approach a sufferer of an asbestos related disease with advice on how they should treat and manage their condition, please think carefully about what you are offering – is your “magical cure” just that, magical and not real?, or are you offering guidance to evidence based treatments and therapies that our members can investigate to make informed and rational choices?