Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes a variety of therapeutic approaches not typically taught in conventional medical schools or used by the majority of conventionally trained physicians (Gordon and Curtin 2000). Complementary refers to modalities used to complement, that is, used in addition to conventional medicine, while alternative is usually used to describe treatments intended to replace conventional treatment (Murphy et al. 1997). Some such practices enjoy a history of research to support claims of efficacy but have not gained popularity among the majority of medical practitioners (e.g., use of acupuncture to reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea) (Dibble et al. 2000; Mayer 2000; Shen et al. 2000); others either lack or have unsupportive research to back claims of safety or efficacy. Even so, the determination of which modalities are complementary or alternative may shift over time as research and practice move some into conventional use and disprove others. Some practices less amenable to our current research epistemology may never move out of CAM nomenclature or perceptions (such as multi-modality system approaches, energy medicine, or spiritually-based practices). This chapter begins by discussing how CAM therapies currently fit into the field of cancer prevention research and then discusses some of the more promising CAM biological agents being studied for their cancer prevention properties, including foods, spices and botanicals. The research on these biological modalities most resembles conventional research on mechanisms of action, such as chemoprevention or dietary interventions that effect biochemical changes. Next, this chapter discusses some of the CAM approaches that are less well matched to the medical model of biochemical responses, including healing approaches that utilize the mind-body relationship; traditional systems of healing founded in ancient wisdom and practice; and the more esoteric areas of spirituality and energy medicine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas