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Cartilage is connective tissue found in the skeletal systems of animals and humans. A shark's skeletal system is mostly made up of cartilage, making it abundantly available for medical research and for creating supplements. Important compounds such as glycoproteins, mucopolysaccharides and calcium salts found in shark cartilage are used as conventional and alternative methods to the treatment and fighting of cancer.
John Prudden, a surgeon and researcher from New York, began studying the use of cartilage in the 1950s. His study involved giving cancer patients bovine cartilage to see if it would heal wounds and treat cancer. His study concluded that over half of his patients had tumors that shrunk. Since that time, cartilage from many kinds of animals, including sharks, have been studied.
Medical research discovered that sharks do not develop cancer as much as humans. That discovery started a theory that a shark's system was better able to ward off cancer. Although sharks are not completely resistant to the disease, because their bodies are mainly made up of cartilage, it made the cartilage easier to obtain and study.
The marketing and selling of shark cartilage supplements become even more popular after the release of a 1992 publication, "Sharks Don't Get Cancer." However, further studies and research have not supported the evidence that shark cartilage is an effective treatment for this disease. Although studies have been done, very few have gone on to be published with conclusive evidence.
People that support alternative and conventional methods of medicine also support the use of shark cartilage. Shark cartilage contains proteins that stop the process of blood vessels being developed. Tumors need blood vessels in order to grow and survive. Cutting off the blood supply to a tumor limits the nutrients it receives and causes it to shrink. It is believe that by taking shark cartilage supplements that a person can shrink cancerous tumors in their body and possibly kill off the disease.
Shark cartilage is available in powder form and pills and can be taken as a dietary supplement. These supplements are generally taken by mouth, but if a person dislikes the fishy taste it leaves in their mouth, the shark cartilage supplement can be given through an enema. One shark cartilage product, AE-941, is a concentrated form of shark cartilage extract that is being regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is in its phase of becoming a new drug. This new drug is being used in studies through carefully monitored clinical trials unlike the previously sold shark cartilage supplements.
I have read that the FDA made some companies marketing sharp cartilage capsules stop producing and distributing them. This was because they were making claims that they could not prove.
I have also read several articles by scientists who say that the whole thing is a bit of a scam. There simply hasn't been enough research to prove that it works, and some even go so far as to say that sharks can get cancer.
Basically, these scientists are concerned that people are giving up chemotherapy and radiation, which have been proven to work, and placing all their faith and money in shark cartilage. This is probably a bad idea.
I wonder if shark cartilage vitamins are dangerous. Sure, they can stop blood vessels from feeding tumors, but what about the rest of our bodies? Do we ever need new blood vessels for other reasons, and would shark cartilage prevent them from forming, too?
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