Demographic, medical, and psychosocial correlates to CAM use among survivors of colorectal cancer


Goals of work

Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) use among cancer patients is becoming more prevalent; however, our understanding of factors contributing to patients’ decisions to participate in CAM is limited. This study examined correlates of CAM use among colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors, an understudied population that experiences many physical and psychological difficulties.

Materials and methods

The sample was 191, predominantly white, CRC survivors (mean age = 59.9 ± 12.6) who were members of a colon disease registry at a NYC metropolitan hospital. Participants completed assessments of sociodemographic characteristics, psychosocial factors [e.g., psychological functioning, cancer specific distress, social support (SS), quality of life (QOL)], and past CAM use (e.g., chiropractic care, acupuncture, relaxation, hypnosis, and homeopathy).

Main results

Seventy-five percent of participants reported using at least one type of CAM; most frequently reported was home remedies (37%). Younger (p < 0.01) or female patients (p < 0.01) were more likely to participate in CAM than their older male counterparts. Among psychosocial factors, poorer perceived SS (p = 0.00), more intrusive thoughts (p < 0.05), and poorer overall perceived QOL (p < 0.05) were associated to CAM use. In a linear regression model (including age, gender, SS, intrusive thoughts, and perceived QOL), only age remained a significant predictor of CAM use.


These findings demonstrate that CAM use is prevalent among CRC survivors and should be assessed routinely by providers. CAMs may serve as a relevant adjunct to treatment among CRC patients as well as an indication of need for additional SS, especially among younger patients.

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The writing of this paper was supported by Grant No. NCI-CA81137-05 from the National Cancer Institute.

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Correspondence to Catalina Lawsin.

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Lawsin, C., DuHamel, K., Itzkowitz, S.H. et al. Demographic, medical, and psychosocial correlates to CAM use among survivors of colorectal cancer. Support Care Cancer 15, 557–564 (2007).

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  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cancer
  • CAM
  • Psychosocial factors