BY RALPH BLUM
Mark and I published, Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, I have been getting a surprising number of
questions about the use of oxygen therapy as a vigorous anti-cancer technology.
Based on all the inquiries one would think there must be evidence of a
widespread belief that oxygen therapy acts to retard or even halt the spread of
regret to say that, as of this writing, that is almost entirely untrue, or at
best, unproven, except in one situation: Hyperbaric treatment is used to
accelerate healing of tissue damaged by radiation therapy. Available scientific
evidence does not support claims that increasing oxygen levels in the body will
kill or even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
How is Oxygen Therapy
Promoted for Use?
varieties of oxygen therapy are effective for treating multiple conditions,
including carbon monoxide poisoning, certain kinds of wounds, injuries and skin
infections, delayed radiation injury and certain bone and brain infections.
However, the FDA sent a warning letter to at least one manufacturer about
promoting oxygen treatment for unproven
uses such as certain types of cancer, asthma, emphysema, AIDS, arthritis, heart
and vascular diseases, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
of oxygen therapy claim that cancer cells thrive in low-oxygen
environments. They believe adding oxygen to the body creates an oxygen-rich
condition in which cancer cells cannot survive. They also claim that a high oxygen environment increases the
efficiency of all cells in the body, increases energy, promotes the production
of antioxidants and enhances immune system function.
oxygen aficionados believe that immersing an affected body part can cause
tumors to separate from the body so that a cancer can be “wiped away.” There is
little evidence that this is the case. And yet, a considerable number of
men are committing to a variety of oxygen treatments. And that concerns
me. So I will give you a brief survey of the oxygen therapy field.
What is the History of
history of putting oxygen-releasing substances into the body follows several
tracks. Interest in ozone dates back to the mid-1800s in Germany, where it was
claimed to purify blood. During World War I, doctors used ozone to treat
wounds, trench foot and the effects of poison gas. In the 1920s, ozone and
hydrogen peroxide were used experimentally to treat the flu.
of the earliest accounts of the medical use of hydrogen peroxide was a short
article by I.N. Love, MD, in 1888 in the Journal
of the American Medical Association. Dr. Love recommended using hydrogen
peroxide as “a stimulator of healing." Unlike most current articles, the
1888 report in that prestigious journal did not include details that would be
required today, such as whether patients treated with peroxide lived longer
than those receiving placebo, or whether there was any solid evidence that
peroxide caused cancers to shrink or disappear.
the 1930s, Otto Warburg, MD, a winner of the Nobel Prize in 1931 for his
research on respiratory enzymes, discovered that cancer cells have a lower
chemical respiration rate than normal cells. He reasoned that cancer cells
thrived in a low-oxygen environment and that increased oxygen levels might
therefore harm and even kill them. Many of the beliefs held by oxygen therapy proponents
are based on Dr. Warburg’s theories concerning cancer, even though technical
advances have since offered a great deal more information about how cancer
cells really use oxygen.
to Dr. Stephen Barrett, who writes about health fraud, reviewed a researcher from the Dominican
Republic who claimed that his clinic used ozone gas to cure thirteen
people with cancer. An investigative news group later learned that two of the
patients died of cancer, three could not be found, two refused to be
interviewed, three were alive but still had cancer, and in three cases it was
not clear if the patients actually ever had cancer.
a 1993 review article found some evidence that too much oxygen in the body’s
tissues may damage genetic material and promote abnormal growth. And a 2001
review of ozone therapy concluded that "… few rigorous clinical trials of
the treatment exist. Those that have been published demonstrated no evidence of
effect . . . Until more positive evidence emerges, ozone therapy should be
oxygen therapy has its benefits, it is the subject of a great deal of controversy,
and I could not find credible evidence that it either halts or slows cancer
growth. Nor does depriving tumors of oxygen stimulate their growth. Nevertheless, oxygen therapies continue
to be widely promoted as alternative treatment for cancer and other serious
illnesses, and are offered at clinics in Mexico, the United States and Europe.
These clinics are attracting men with prostate cancer, men hopeful that the
therapies provided will benefit them.
The lack of randomized clinical trials makes it difficult to judge the
value of oxygen therapy for many of its claims, and we need to expand our
knowledge on the effect and mechanisms behind tumor oxygenation. Meanwhile it continues to be big business
south of the border.
But let the buyer beware.