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Oxygen therapy is an alternative treatment that may be effective for treating cancer. Hydrogen peroxide or ozone, O3, are introduced to the body for the purpose of releasing oxygen. The additional oxygen in the body is thought to destroy cancer cells, as these cells use oxygen in different ways than normal cells. Current scientific research does not advocate this form of cancer treatment due to serious side effects, though several studies have shown oxygen therapy may decrease the side effects caused by other anti-cancer drugs.
There are several different ways oxygen therapy for cancer can proceed. A dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide can be applied directly to skin wounds, injected directly into the vein, or taken orally. Ozone gas may be mixed with liquids or air and then introduced to the body. It is possible to inject the gas through body openings, under the skin, or directly into muscle.
Medical researchers believe there is potential to using oxygen therapy for cancer because of the way that cancer cells use oxygen in comparison to healthy cells. Work in cancer cell metabolism is still ongoing, but it has been found that high levels of oxygen cause many physiological changes in the cell, changes that may stop cancer from spreading and kill tumor cells.
In particular, oxygen therapy for cancer has been found to be effective at reducing damage due to other anti-cancer drugs. Many drugs used in cancer treatments can severely damage other organs; cisplatin, for example, can damage the kidneys. When drug treatment was paired with ozone treatment in some studies, the toxic side effects of the drugs were decreased.
Some of the disadvantages of oxygen therapy for cancer include the lack of scientific proof and possible side effects. Currently there is no scientific proof that supports the used of oxygen therapy. Researchers have thought that the inability to get high concentrations of oxygen to the cancer cells may be the problem, as with current treatments, the oxygen is spread throughout the body.
There are also serious side effects that are directly related to putting high levels of oxygen-releasing compounds into the body. The type of hydrogen peroxide solution used, usually food-grade, may contain up to 35% hydrogen peroxide; this concentration is more than 10 times the amount approved for use on skin, a 3% solution. Drinking food-grade hydrogen peroxide as part of oxygen therapy for cancer can cause vomiting, burning of the stomach and throat, and blindness. Several deaths have been linked to oxygen therapies.