Complementary and alternative therapy use in adult survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2008 Jan;50(1):90-7. doi: 10.1002/pbc.21177.


Background: Little information is available on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in long-term survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer.

Procedure: The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) is a resource evaluating the long-term effects of cancer and associated therapies in 5-year survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer diagnosed between 1970 and 1986 before the age of 21 years. A survey of CAM use during the previous year was distributed in 2000-2001 and completed by 9,984 survivors and 2,474 sibling controls.

Results: CAM use reporting was similar in cases (39.4%) and siblings (41.1%). Compared to female siblings, female survivors were more likely to use biofeedback (odds ratio (OR) = 3.3; 95% CI = 1.0-10.8) and hypnosis/guided imagery (OR = 3.2; 95% CI = 1.6-6.8); male survivors were more likely than male siblings to use herbal remedies (OR = 1.3; 95% CI = 1.1-1.6). Factors associated with CAM use in survivors included elevated scores on the brief symptom inventory (BSI)-18 (OR = 1.6; 95% CI = 1.3-1.9), prolonged pain (OR = 1.5; 95% CI = 1.3-1.7), and having seen a physician in the past 2 years (OR = 1.6; 95% CI = 1.4-1.8). Survivors reporting low alcohol intake and excellent or good general health reported lower levels of CAM use (OR = 0.7; 95% CI = 0.7-0.8 and OR = 0.8; 95% CI = 0.7-0.9, respectively).

Conclusions: Survivors have a similar reported use of CAM compared to a sibling cohort. However, our data suggest that survivors turn to CAM for specific symptoms related to previous diagnosis and treatment. Future research is needed to determine whether CAM use reflects unmet health needs in this population.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data*