Is There Really a Conspiracy to Suppress Cancer Cures?

Michael Higgins
October 24, 2007

The world of “alternative” cancer treatments abounds with claims like these:

“The war on cancer is largely a fraud.”

“In 1964, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spent millions of dollars to stop an alternative cancer treatment which had cured hundreds, if not thousands, of cancer patients”

“The pharmaceutical multinationals, unable to patent or claim exclusive rights to the vitamin, launched a propaganda attack of unprecedented viciousness against B17, despite the fact that hard proof of its efficiency in controlling all forms of cancer surrounds us in overwhelming abundance.”

The general story is that there is a conspiracy by the established medical industry to keep the cure for cancer hidden. This is the “cancer conspiracy” discussed on this page. The reasoning behind this theory typically goes like this:

Alleged Fact 1: Cancer is a multi-billion dollar industry.
  + Alleged Fact 2: Treatment x cures cancer so well it would destroy that industry.
    => Conclusion: Some individuals, companies, and government organisations involved in the industry are suppressing the information about x to keep their industry thriving.

As a cancer patient myself, I would like nothing better than to believe that there is a cure for my cancer out there in the world of alternative medicine. However, when you look closely at the medical industry, the possibility of such a cover-up seems implausible.

Who are the conspirators?

I have been living with cancer for three years and during that time been treated by approximately half a dozen medical practioners. I have been fortunate because almost all of them have been remarkably compassionate and caring people. At least one of them was motivated to pursue cancer research by the loss of a close relative.

All of these individuals had partaken in medical research at some stage in their careers, and about half of them were actively involved in research regarding treating cancer patients at the time of my treatment. One of them sat on the board of a private pharmaceuticals company, another was an adviser to a government agency. If you look across the world there must be hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people like them.

They are the people I am being asked to believe are conspiring to keep the truth hidden from me in order to keep their jobs. I believe that every single one of them would gladly quit their profession and retrain tomorrow if their patients could suddenly be cured without their help. Yet this conspiracy theory requires not just one or two bad-apples knowingly letting their patients die, but a huge number, probably the majority, of medical professionals, in medical research, would need to be involved.

But isn’t cancer Big Business ?

Of course it is! In Australia, where I live, the majority of research is funded by the government and done by universities and large teaching hospitals. The cost of treating cancer patients takes up a large, and increasing proportion of the government health budget. The cancer conspiracy would suggest that the government is so concerned about keeping the business running (in this case the hospital beds full) that they would hide any discovery that would free up hospital resources. Even the most cynical should realise that the huge cost of treating cancer patients is something the government is keen to reduce not increase. The financial incentive is clearly on the side of finding the cure, not hiding it.

On the other hand, I would certainly concede that private commercial funding only targets treatments that would be profitable. Typically, this is patentable drugs and excludes most alternatives. So this type of research complements rather than replaces government funded research. But the fact that billions of dollars are being spent by private companies on such research is something that I am entirely grateful for. To me the idea that these companies could control medical knowledge, or even the individuals who work for them is ridiculous.

Why are so many people saying there is a Cancer Conspiracy?

Are there really so many? There are billions of people who don’t believe these theories, but somehow a website that says “I believe what’s logical and reasonable, like most people” doesn’t seem so interesting.

Those who do go to the trouble of putting together an “alternative” cancer treatment website generally seem intent on making money out of it. Ironic isn’t it!

Besides, the Internet is the home of conspiracy theories. You could find one on just about any subject. I am grateful we have so many independent thinkers and the freedom to express ourselves. But I get angry when I see vulnerable people being told lies and exploited for a profit.

What about the tobacco industry?

The tobacco industry makes billions of dollars from selling a major cancer causing product. Furthermore, the government makes additional billions from taxes on tobacco products. If there was ever a case where money was going to hide the facts about a product then this would be it.

But has that happened? No. In Australia, cigarette boxes are covered with warnings like “Smoking Kills”and “Smoking is addictive” and advertising of tobacco products is totally banned. In fact the government spends millions of dollars educating the population about the dangers of smoking.

There is evidence that initial research performed by tobacco companies was suppressed, so indeed these companies have certainly acted unethically and immorally. But despite the fact that these businesses and the government make billions out of the industry, the truth was not suppressed for long. If anything, this case demonstrates that even when both big business and government have vast financial interests in hiding the truth, it simply can’t be done.

Couldn’t a cure for cancer come from alternative medicine?

If history has taught us anything about cancer, it is that it is not an easy disease to cure. It is 2,400 years after the disease was first recorded by Hippocrates and presumably even longer since the first treatment was attempted. If traditional medicine has failed for this long, it seems to me that a cure will require every fraction of recently obtained knowledge about microbiology, the human genome, and modern medicine. It seems unlikely that fields of research outside this body of knowledge will make a lot of progress. But if an “alternative” practitioner did stumble onto an effective method, the scientific community would quickly embrace it and there would be no cover-up.


I know there isn’t any cancer conspiracy because I know that the people doing and running the research are human. Their lives, like mine, have been touched by cancer. They, like me, would do anything to save the lives of the people they love. Furthermore, I assume that any treatments associating themselves with a conspiracy theory have something to hide—the simple fact that their treatment doesn’t work.

Michael Higgins was an Australian engineer who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001. This article was the centerpiece of a Web site he set up in 2003 to help prevent others with cancer from wasting their time, money, and even their health pursuing worthless “cures.” During its four-year lifetime, the site had more than 120,000 page hits and generated more than 300 feedback emails. Mr. Higgins died in 2004, but to preserve his message, the article was offered to the Quackwatch network, which published it with slight modification.
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