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Laetrile (amygdalin) for cancer

Clinical bottom line

There is no reliable evidence that laetrile (amygdalin) if effective for cancer, and considerable doubt about its safety.


Reference

A Milazzo et al. Laetrile for cancer: a systematic review of the clinical evidence. Support Care Cancer 2006: DOI 10.1007/s00520-006-0168-9.

Background

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aetrile (amygdalin) is one of several names given to glucosides that react in the body to produce cyanide. There are a number of sources of these materials, which are banned in the USA and much of Europe. They represent popular alternative cancer cures that have been used for about 40 years.

Systematic review

The review sought studies of any design, including case reports, that might provide evidence for the efficacy or safety of laetrile in the treatment of cancer.

Results

Thirty-six reports were found. None was a controlled trial. Most (25) were case reports, with some case series. None proved the effectiveness of laetrile.

Comment

This is a superb and detailed review, both of what laetrile is or may be, the different sources, and the evidence regarding efficacy and safety. The bottom line is that there is no conclusive evidence of efficacy, but considerable evidence of toxicity, especially that associated with cyanide poisoning.