The use of herbal medicines by people with cancer: a cross-sectional survey

Sarah Damery, Christine Gratus, R Grieve, Sally Warmington, J Jones, P Routledge, Sheila Greenfield, George Dowswell, J Sherriff, Sue Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)


Background:A large proportion of cancer patients are estimated to use herbal medicines, but data to substantiate this are lacking. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of herbal medicine use among cancer patients in the West Midlands, and determine the characteristics predicting herbal medicine use.Methods:A cross-sectional survey of oncology patients (n=1498) being followed up at a hospital in Coventry was undertaken. Recipients were asked about herbal medicine use since their cancer diagnosis, and the association between sociodemographic and cancer-related characteristics and herbal medicine use was evaluated.Results:A total of 1134 responses were received (75.7%). The prevalence of herbal medicine use was 19.7% (95% CI: 17.4-22.1; n=223). Users were more likely to be affluent, female, and aged under 50 years. Usage increased with time since cancer diagnosis (X(2) for trend=4.63; P=0.031). A validation data set, derived from a survey of oncology patients in Birmingham (n=541) with differing socioeconomic characteristics showed no significant difference in estimated prevalence (16.6%; 95% CI: 11.9-22.2).Conclusion:A substantial number of people with cancer are likely to be taking herbal medicines. Understanding the self-medication behaviours of these individuals is essential if health-care professionals are to support treatment adherence and avoid unwanted pharmacological interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-33
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2011


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