Beware of products claiming to cure cancer on websites or social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. According to Nicole Kornspan, a consumer safety officer at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such claims are rampant these days.
“Anyone who suffers from cancer, or knows someone who does, understands the fear and desperation that can set in,” says Kornspan. “There can be a great temptation to jump at anything that appears to offer a chance for a cure.”
Legitimate medical products such as drugs and devices intended to treat cancer must gain FDA approval or clearance before they are marketed and sold. The agency’s review process helps ensure that these products are safe and effective for their intended uses.
Nevertheless, it is always possible to find someone or some company hawking bogus cancer “treatments,” which come in many forms, including pills, capsules, powders, creams, teas, oils, and treatment kits. Frequently advertised as “natural” treatments and often falsely labelled as dietary supplements, such products may appear harmless, but may cause harm by delaying or interfering with proven, beneficial treatments. Absent FDA approval or clearance for safety, they could also contain dangerous ingredients.
That holds true for treatments intended for humans and those intended for pets. “Increasingly, bogus remedies claiming to cure cancer in cats and dogs are showing up online,” Kornspan says. “People who cannot afford to spend large sums at the animal hospital to treat cancer in their beloved dogs and cats are searching for less-expensive remedies.”
The FDA urges consumers to steer clear of these potentially unsafe and unproven products and to always discuss cancer treatment options with their licensed health care provider. In April 2017, the FDA sent out warning letters to 14 companies, advising them to change or remove the fraudulent claims on their websites.