These claims derive from the fact that hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing liquid, which means it gives off oxygen. Low oxygen levels can cause cancer, and some people think that exposing cancer cells to high levels of oxygen will prevent them from growing and they will die.
This type of therapy is often known as oxy medicine, oxidology, or oxidative therapy.
No current research suggests hydrogen peroxide has any effect on cancer cells. There are, however, many warnings against using it internally.
In this article, learn more about where these claims originate, what the current research says, and about the possible risks of using hydrogen peroxide as a cancer treatment.
What are the claims?
Research does not support the use of hydrogen peroxide to treat cancer.
Claims that hydrogen peroxide can treat or cure cancer date back to the early 1930s when a German doctor called Otto Heinrich Warburg discovered that cancer cells could grow successfully without oxygen.
As a result of his discovery, other researchers began to hypothesize that low oxygen levels lead to cancer development.
Some researchers believed that providing an abundance of oxygen to cancer cells might cure the cancer, so they began to look into how compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide, affected cancer cells.
Research in the mid-1900s suggested that hydrogen peroxide could have a positive effect. The scientists carried out their research on animals, and though there were some favorable results, most indicated that hydrogen peroxide had limited effects.
Still, the results of these studies were positive enough for some people to claim that hydrogen peroxide can cure cancer. Supporters of hydrogen peroxide as a cancer cure believe that food grade hydrogen peroxide, which has a concentration of 35 percent, can treat cancer better than conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
What does the research say?
Recent studies have shown some flaws in the early research. The biggest problem with the initial research is the hypothesis that cancer thrives without oxygen and that oxygen can hamper its growth.
Researchers now know that although cancer can survive without oxygen, it can also continue to grow in an oxygen-rich environment.
Additionally, a study published in 2011 proved that cancer cells produce hydrogen peroxide, which may help the cells to grow.
The United States Food and Drug Association (FDA) have also issued a warning to consumers about purchasing high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. The FDA indicated that there was insufficient research to show that hydrogen peroxide is suitable for any medicinal purpose.
There are many significant potential risks and side effects of consuming hydrogen peroxide or using it for medicinal purposes.
Risks and warnings
Hydrogen peroxide can cause a range of issues, including difficulty breathing.
Though hydrogen peroxide is available from various retailers for injection or digestion, people should be aware of the potential side effects and risks of using it.
The typical concentration of hydrogen peroxide in products is 3 percent. Even at this concentration, hydrogen peroxide may cause stomach pain and burns.
Proponents of hydrogen peroxide for cancer treatment recommend a concentration of 35 percent. At this concentration, hydrogen peroxide can cause some of the following issues when swallowed:
- burns in the mouth, esophagus (food tube), and stomach
- bloating in the stomach
- difficulty breathing
- loss of consciousness
If a person injects hydrogen peroxide, they may experience side effects, such as:
- gas bubbles that can impede blood flow, which can be fatal
- kidney failure
- deterioration of red blood cells
- inflammation of blood cells at the injection site
Some additional effects of exposure to hydrogen peroxide include:
- eye irritation
- bleaching of the hair or skin
- burns or blisters
Although some people support using hydrogen peroxide for cancer treatment, there are many warnings against using hydrogen peroxide internally. Hydrogen peroxide is intended for topical use only.
Also, there is little to suggest that hydrogen peroxide has any effect on cancer cells. Anyone with a cancer diagnosis should speak to their doctor about medically appropriate treatment options.