Complementary and Alternative Medicine Survey:


Why is NCI interested in studying the use of complementary medicine?

The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has skyrocketed among the US population. Based on the results of previous research, an estimated 629 million visits were made to CAM providers in 1997, costing $27 billion in out-of-pocket costs, and exceeding expenses for conventional medical care (Eisenberg et al., 1998). It is estimated that between 40% and 45% of the adult population use CAM to prevent or treat health problems. Further, a recent study of US adults using data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that 62% of Americans had used CAM in the past year if religious and spiritual practices for health purposes was included in the definition of CAM and 36% if religious and spiritual practices was excluded from the definition.

Still, CAM use is poorly understood, and the impact of CAM use in general health care cannot be extrapolated from previous studies because the available data are mainly from small, clinically-based, racially homogeneous populations. NCI is particularly interested in CAM use among individuals who have previously been diagnosed with cancer, as well as the use of CAM for cancer prevention in the general population.

Physicians and health-policy researchers also are interested in learning more about the use of CAM in both the general population and among cancer survivors because of the possible negative effect its use might have on the use of conventional care, especially because CAM therapies may produce adverse outcomes in people with serious illnesses.

Finally, the size and diversity of the racial/ethnic groups in the CHIS-CAM sample will help NCI to ascertain use of CAM among racial/ethnic minority populations, which are insufficiently represented in current national surveys.


Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, Appel S, Wilkey S, Van Rompay M, Kessler RC. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1569-75. [View Abstract]

Barnes PM, Powell-Griner E, McFann K, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. Adv Data 2004 May 27;(343):1-19. [View Abstract]

CHIS-CAM Publications

Goldstein MS, Brown ER, Ballard-Barbash R, Morgenstern H, Bastani R, Lee J, Gatto N, Ambs A. The use of complementary and alternative medicine among California adults with and without cancer. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2005 Dec;2(4):557-65. [View Abstract]

Hsiao AF, Wong MD, Goldstein MS, Yu HJ, Andersen RM, Brown ER, Becerra LM, Wenger NS. Variation in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use across racial/ethnic groups and the development of ethnic-specific measures of CAM use. J Altern Complement Med 2006 Apr;12(3):281-90. [View Abstract]

Last modified:
11 Apr 2007
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