High prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use in the Dutch pediatric oncology population: a multicenter survey

Eur J Pediatr. 2013 Jan;172(1):31-7. doi: 10.1007/s00431-012-1821-6. Epub 2012 Sep 19.


Although complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is widely used in the pediatric population, research on the use of these therapies in the pediatric oncology population is of mixed quality. In this multicenter survey, we investigated the prevalence of CAM use, possible determinants of use, and parental attitude towards communication and research on CAM therapies. The prevalence of CAM use in the past 12 months was assessed by using a questionnaire based on the European guidelines on CAM research, filled out by parents of children visiting pediatric oncology outpatient clinics of six academic hospitals in the Netherlands. The questionnaire consisted of 26 questions on the child's clinical status, CAM use, and attitude towards communication and research on CAM therapies. One hundred and twenty-two of 288 respondents (42.4 %) reported CAM use. The most frequently used categories were homeopathy (18.8 %) and dietary supplements (11.5 %). Female gender and parental CAM use were significant predictors for the use of CAM (p < 0.001). Only one third of the parents had discussed CAM use with their pediatric oncologist. More than 80 % of the respondents identified a need for information about CAM from their pediatrician and 85.7 % was positive towards research on CAM. Half of the parents were interested in participating in future CAM trials. Conclusion, with more than 40 % of parents of Dutch pediatric oncology patients providing complementary and alternative medicine to their child and with lacking evidence on efficacy and safety of most CAM modalities, there is a clear need for high-quality research in this field. This study shows that most parents have an open attitude towards CAM research and that almost half of the parents would consider participating in future CAM trials, paving the way for research on CAM and aiming for its evidence-based use in pediatric oncology.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Parents
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult