• CAM;
  • cancer;
  • complementary and alternative therapies;
  • dietary


Background:  The present study aimed to directly assess and compare the usage, benefits and side-effects of dietary-related complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among adult cancer patients and non-cancer adults in Norwich, UK.

Methods:  Self-administered questionnaires were completed by 98 cancer patients and 92 non-cancer adults to compare demographics, types of CAM usage with reasons, benefits, side-effects and CAM information sources. The groups were matched for gender, age, marital status, education and household income. The mean ages were 62.7 and 59.7 years, respectively, with slightly more female than male participants.

Results:  CAM use was high in both groups (47% in cancer and 53% in non-cancer respondents, P > 0.05). The most widely-used diet-related CAM among both groups was the large intake of fruit, vegetables and juice, multivitamins, fish oils and glucosamine. Fish oil intake was significantly higher in the non-cancer group (P < 0.05), whereas selenium and β-carotene supplements were significantly higher in the cancer group (P < 0.01 and P = 0.02, respectively). The main reasons for using CAM were to boost the immune system and to improve quality of life (P > 0.05). Reported benefits included increased optimism and hope for the cancer group and increased optimism and pain relief for the non-cancer group.

Conclusions:  Diet-related CAM is used frequently by both cancer patients and non-cancer adults, with many reported benefits and few reported side-effects. Significant differences between the groups included a higher prevalence of fish oil used by the non-cancer group, and a higher use of selenium and β-carotene supplements in the cancer group.