Cesium is a rare, naturally occurring element of alkali metal similar in chemical structure to lithium, sodium, and potassium. Cesium chloride is a salt form of this element.
Radioactive cesium (cesium-137) is used in certain types of radiation therapy for cancer patients. However, available scientific evidence does not support claims that non-radioactive cesium chloride supplements have any effect on tumors. A few people have had life-threatening problems with heart rhythm, seizures, loss of consciousness, and electrolyte (blood chemistry) imbalances after taking cesium.
How is it promoted for use?
Cesium can be absorbed by all cells, probably due to its similarity in chemical structure to potassium. Proponents claim the intracellular pH of tumor cells is usually very low (acidic) compared to normal cells, and that cesium chloride supplements increase the pH level of tumor cells back to a normal level, which is supposed to slow the cancer's growth. Since cesium chloride is claimed to work by raising the pH of the tumor cells, its use in therapy has been called "high pH therapy." Available scientific evidence does not support this theory.
What does it involve?
Cesium chloride supplements are available in pill form. Proponents suggest a dosage of 1 to 6 grams per day, sometimes dissolved in juice together with vitamins and other minerals. Some practitioners give cesium chloride intravenously (IV).
What is the history behind it?
Interest in cesium therapy began when scientists observed that certain regions of the world with low rates of certain cancers had a high concentration of alkali metals in the soil. As early as the 1920s, some researchers suggested cesium might be effective as an anti-tumor agent. However, further research, starting in the 1930s suggested cesium had no effect on cancer cell growth. The use of cesium chloride for high pH therapy was first advanced in the 1980s.
What is the evidence?
There is no evidence that the intracellular pH of a cancer cell is any different than a normal cell or that malignant cells are more susceptible than normal cells to toxic effects of high pH. Thus, the underlying principle behind high pH therapy remains unproven. Although it was observed that certain areas with low rates of cancers had a high concentration of alkali metals in the soil, it has never been shown that differences in other risk factors or protective factors were not involved, or that cesium provides any benefit in the prevention or treatment of cancer.
Studies conducted in several experimental tumor models in the 1980s found that the use of cesium or cesium chloride led to less tumor growth and fewer deaths of certain tumor-bearing mice such as those with sarcoma or breast cancer. In animal studies, chronic ingestion of cesium caused blood and neuromuscular effects, and even death. Animal and laboratory studies may show a substance has toxic effects, but further studies are necessary to determine if the results apply to humans. More research is needed to determine the risks and safety of cesium. The benefit of cesium for people with cancer, if any, is unknown.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
This product is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States. Unlike drugs (which must be tested before being allowed to be sold), the companies that make supplements are not required to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their supplements are safe or effective, as long as they don't claim the supplements can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.
Some such products may not contain the amount of the herb or substance that is written on the label, and some may include other substances (contaminants). Actual amounts per dose may vary between brands or even between different batches of the same brand.
Most such supplements have not been tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements. Even though some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are not often available. Because of these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions below should be considered incomplete.
In a case report from 1984, one person described his own experiences after taking cesium chloride for 36 days. He took 3 grams of cesium chloride dissolved in fluid after his morning and evening meals, which consisted of an alternative dietary regimen. He describes an “initial general feeling of well-being and heightened sense perception,” as well as nausea, diarrhea, and tingling of his lips, hands, and feet. This case report is very different from a clinical trial involving many patients and is not helpful in deciding on a safe dose of cesium. Another person, who may be younger, older, smaller, or less healthy than this individual may not do well with this dose.
In fact, several recent case reports have described serious side effect in people with cancer taking similar doses, including life-threatening problems with heart rhythm, seizures, loss of consciousness, and electrolyte (blood chemistry) imbalances in patients who were taking cesium. Full information on the acute and chronic toxicity of this substance is not fully known. Consuming large amounts of cesium could result in nausea, diarrhea, disturbed heart rhythm, loss of consciousness, or even death. Based on results of animal studies, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid taking cesium chloride supplements. Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding conventional medical care, may also have serious health consequences.
More Information From Your American Cancer Society
The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).
* Guidelines for Using Complementary and Alternative Methods
* How to Know What Is Safe: Choosing and Using Dietary Supplements
* American Cancer Society Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management
Dalal AK, Harding JD, Verdino RJ. Acquired long QT syndrome and monomorphic ventricular tachycardia after alternative treatment with cesium chloride for brain cancer. Mayo Clin Proc. 2004:79;1065-1069.
El-Domeiri AA, Messiha FS, Hsia WC. Effect of alkali metal salts on sarcoma I in A/J mice. J Surg Oncol. 1981;18:423-429.
Lyon AW. Mayhew WJ. Cesium toxicity: a case of self-treatment by alternate therapy gone awry. Therapeutic Drug Monitoring. 2003; 25:114-116.
Messiha FS. Developmental toxicity of cesium in the mouse. Gen Pharmacol. 1994;25:395-400.
Messiha FS, Stocco DM. Effect of cesium and potassium salts on survival of rats bearing Novikoff hepatoma. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1984;21:31-34.
Neulieb R. Effect of oral intake of cesium chloride: a single case report. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1984;21:15-16.
Pinsky C, Bose R. Pharmacological and toxicological investigations of cesium. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1984;21:17-23.
Pinter A, Doran P, Newman D. Cesium-Induced Torsades de Pointes. New Engl J Med. 2002:346;383.
Samadani U, Marcotte P. Zero efficacy with cesium chloride self-treatment for brain cancer. Mayo Clin Proc. 2004;79:1585-1591.
Sartori HE. Nutrients and cancer: an introduction to cesium therapy. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1984;21:7-10.
Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.
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