Header Graphic

Vitamin B17 As A Cure For Cancer: Truth or Controversy

Vitamin B17 is one of the controversial vitamins at present. It is synonymous to amygdalin, a glycoside that was found in the seed of bitter almonds. It became popular because of its supposed function as a treatment for cancer.

Vitamin B17 is an extract of the apricot kernel cake which has undergone boiling with ethanol. It produces benzaldehyde, prussic acid or hydrogen cyanide, and sugar when decomposed with sulfuric acid and mandelic acid, ammonia, and glucose with hydrochloric acid. It is also synonymous to laevomandelonitrile or its shorter version, laetrile.

However, according to the National Cancer Institute, Laetrile and amygdalin refer to different products although often used interchangeably. Laetrile which is patented in the US is partly man-made while the one manufactured in Mexico uses the crushed pits of apricots. Even its label of being called vitamin B17 is not quite true since it is not truly a vitamin.

Vitamin B17 has been seen as a form of preventive treatment for cancer. According to the advocate Phillip Day, he claims that the use of vitamin B17 regularly can give total protection to a healthy person from the development of cancer. If the person has just been diagnosed to have cancer which is just starting, then the intake of vitamin B17 can increase its survival rate up to 80% while with a cancer that has already metastasized, the chances are 15%.

But these claims are based on cancer being a metabolic disease, which is not a general idea accepted by the scientific research community. Because of a lack of evidence as to its effectiveness as well as its potential to become toxic to the body in high dosages, it has not received a seal of approval as a possible cure for cancer by the US Food and Drug Administration.

A clinical trial in 1982 was done by Mayo clinic with vitamin b17 and its possible use as treatment for cancer. Under the sponsorship of NCI and with 3 other cancer centers in the US, a metabolic therapy and laetrile therapy were done to 178 volunteer patients with advanced staged cancer that was already labeled as hopeless because of lack of treatment available. Unfortunately, no patient was cured nor their condition stabilized by these therapies. The average rate of survival for these patients was 5 months, although with those who survived a bit longer also had an increase in tumor size. There was also evidence of cyanide poisoning from these patients.

The American Cancer Society has named this vitamin B17 as a form of quackery. In 2006, a conclusion was made on the review of the clinical evidence available on the efficacy of vitamin B17 on cancer. They believed that the claim stating that vitamin B17 is effective in curing cancer patients has no basis since there is no factual clinical data to back it up. Also, there is a huge doubt on the safety of this substance.

In conclusion, this lack of reliable information as well as the attitude of some patients to prescribe medications for what ails them, specifically vitamin B17 is found to endanger their lives even more as they create severe problems in its treatment of cancer.