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Cold-fx Cancer Warning Hoax

Summary:
Email forward claims that the cold and flu remedy Cold fx contains a substance that can "feed" cancer cells and should never be taken by women with cancer (Full commentary below).



Status:
False

Example: (Submitted, November 2006)
A friend that is currently battling cancer went for her Chemo treatment yesterday and the doctor had asked her if there was anything she had been taking such as vitamins etc. She mentioned to the doctor that she was fighting a cold and she was taking Cold FX. Turns out the doctor said to her that for a WOMAN, Cold FX is the worst thing to take if you've got cancer or if cancer runs in your family. Apparently there is a substance in the Cold FX that the cancer cells just feed off of.

The doctor repeatedly told her how dangerous it was and to absolutely avoid it. The doctor said to her that they really wish the word could get out there about how dangerous it can be for a woman to take Cold FX who has had or currently has cancer or has a family history of cancer. So I just thought I would pass this along to you gals, if you have any friends or family you may want to inform that maybe they should mention to their doctor as well.

Sometimes we don't get all the information just from the label on the bottle.




Commentary:
This email forward warns recipients that the cold and flu remedy COLD-fx is dangerous for women who already have cancer or have a family history of cancer. According to the warning, there is a substance in COLD-fx that cancer cells can "feed off" thereby making the cancer worse.

However, I have found no evidence of any kind that supports the claims in this message. Like many other health "warnings", this one contains no information or reference material to back up its claims. Cold fx is Canada's most popular cold and flu remedy and has been available there for a number of years. In 2006, the product was cleared for sale in the US. If the claims had any substance whatsoever, they would be well publicized in a variety of ways. Consumers would be informed of any potential danger via product labelling, cancer health related websites and publications, news reports, and government health agencies. CV Technologies, the Alberta based company that makes and distributes the product, is very unlikely to risk financially crippling legal actions by failing to disclose links between COLD fx and increased cancer risks. In fact the company has publicly denied the rumour. CV Technologies has published the following information in the FAQ section of the Cold fx website:

I have heard that taking COLD-fX is dangerous for women who have or are at risk for developing cancer and that it "feeds" hormonal cancers. Is this correct?

No, this is not correct. COLD-fX has been clinically proven to be a safe and effective product. The safety of COLD-fX has been reviewed by both Health Canada, and more recently, the U.S. FDA who filed a safety-related New Dietary Ingredient submission without comment. There is no evidence suggesting that COLD-fX is unsafe for patients with cancer, or specifically, hormone-related cancers. COLD-fX has not demonstrated any carcinogenic effects in toxicity studies in any of the clinical trials or through the extensive usage by the general population.

This false impression may relate to some un-confirmed laboratory studies suggesting that crude ginseng containing chemicals known as ginsenosides may have estrogen-related effects. During the COLD-fX manufacturing process, these ginsenosides are removed so that the final product is comprised of a proven safe ingredient: polysaccharides (specifically, poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides).

There is no clinical evidence to suggest that ginseng in general is unsafe for women who have or are at risk for developing hormone-related cancers. In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (Cui Y et al, 163(7):645) demonstrated that regular users of ginseng had improved survival and quality of life in breast cancer patients. The National Cancer Institute of the U.S. NIH has recently supported a well-controlled Mayo Clinic study to further investigate the potential benefits of American ginseng in cancer patients, including women. COLD-fX has also demonstrated anti-cancer effects through immune enhancement in pre-clinical laboratory studies of a leukemia model.

Although there is no evidence to suggest COLD-fX is un-safe for women who have or are at risk for developing hormone-related cancers, it is recommend that individuals with any serious medical condition consult with their physician prior to taking COLD-fX.

Thus, the rumour is baseless, and perpetrating it by forwarding this warning email will serve no good purpose. While legitimate health warnings may sometimes circulate via email, such warnings can always be verified via other credible sources such as government health authorities and news outlets. It is exceptionally unlikely that genuine product related health warnings will be distributed solely via unconfirmed email forwards and unsubstantiated blog and forum posts.

If you receive a health warning in the form of an email forward or see such a warning published on a blog or online forum, always take a few minutes to check its veracity via a reliable independent source. Passing on a bogus or misleading health warning will only cause unnecessary alarm, spread misinformation, and needlessly clutter inboxes.

References:
COLD-fx
CV Technologies' Cold-fX cleared for sale in United States
CV Technologies
FAQs | ColdFX

Last updated: 13th December 2006
First published: 13th December 2006

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen