CBS Local — New medical research is claiming that cancer patients who opt for unconventional treatments are at much greater risk of dying from the disease. Researchers at Yale School of Medicine say that the chance of dying from cancer within five years more than doubled for patients using alternative treatments instead of standard medication.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at the treatment of over 800 cancer patients. Nearly 300 of the patients had decided to receive a treatment other than more widely-used options like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery.

“They could be herbs, botanicals, homeopathy, special diets or energy crystals, which are basically just stones that people believe have healing powers,” lead author Dr. Skyler Johnson said.

Skyler’s group found that cancer patients using alternative medicine were nearly two and a half times more likely to die within five years of their diagnosis. Patients with breast cancer were over five times more likely to die from the disease compared to people undergoing standard radiation treatment.

The study also revealed that 41 percent of subjects suffering from lung cancer reportedly survived for more than five years using standard medication. The survival rate was only 20 percent among people using non-standard methods.

The study found that users of alternative cancer treatments tended to be wealthier and highly-educated individuals.

“Herbs and diets don’t sound expensive, but when these things are delivered through providers, they can come with a hefty bill,” says John Bridgewater of University College London Hospital. “It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. People pay more out-of-pocket for alternative treatments than they do for standard treatments.”

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