CAMThere’s concern that the use of complementary and alternative medications (CAM) may replace recommended preventive health practices.

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, in Pennsylvania conducted a survey to learn more.

First, the details.

  • Data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey of over 23,000 adult were analyzed to determine if users of individual types of CAM were less likely to receive influenza and/or pneumococcal vaccinations.

And, the results.

  • Chiropractic
    • People who used chiropractic care were significantly less likely to receive flu shots.
  • Deep breathing exercises
    • Some evidence of a greater likelihood of getting a pneumococcal vaccine among users of deep breathing exercises.
  • Qigong
    • Some evidence that people who used qi gong were less likely to get flu shots and pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Prayer
    • Had a positive impact on receiving immunizations, especially in Blacks and those in poor health.
  • Other factors
    • Regular exercise, having a primary care provider and more frequent office visits were positively associated with receiving immunizations.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Chiropractic users are less likely to get flu shots, perhaps reflecting their “national body’s attitude,” which could affect morbidity and mortality.”

The other association are less strong, but night contribute to the motivation, yea or nay, for vaccinations and preventive screening.

Findings in 2 studies from researchers in Washington State support the risks of depending too heavily on CAM.

In women

  • Both alternative and complementary use was associated with reduced Chlamydia screening in women who also used allopathic care.
  • Cancer screening increased with complementary use (care by allopathic and complementary health provider) but decreased with alternative use of CAM (women who did not use allopathic care).
  • Naturopathy
    • Use of naturopathy was associated with decreased mammography.
  • Women who used naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists were more likely to get Papanicolaou testing (Pap smear).

In children

  • Naturopathic physician
    • Significantly less likely to receive each of 4 recommended vaccinations (hepatitis B; pneumococcal vaccine; diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; Haemophilus influenzae type b).
    • More likely to be diagnosed with a vaccine-preventable disease if they received naturopathic care.
  • Chiropractors
    • Significantly less likely to receive 3 of the recommended vaccinations.

Is CAM safe? Not when viewed from this perspective. Refusal of screening puts patients at risk. Refusal of vaccination poses a risk to both individuals and the general public.

There are enough negative associations to raise concern that some patients under the care of certain CAM providers are not availing themselves of proven preventive treatments and testing.

12/20/09 17:02 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.