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Shark Cartilage and Cancer

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 3 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Shark Cartilage Cancer Anti-cancer

New studies show that one third of Europeans are turning to alternative and complementary medicine for treatments of cancer. Herbal treatments come at the top of the list, followed by homeopathy and then vitamin and mineral supplements.

One of the more unusual supplements that are becoming increasingly popular is shark cartilage. Shark cartilage is exactly what it sounds like - cartilage from a shark. Cartilage consists of a translucent, rubbery tissue, harder than ligaments, softer than bones. It is found between bones and permits the smooth movements of the joints.

The interest in shark cartilage started several years ago. The basis for some of this interest comes from a claim that sharks rarely get cancer because of the high proportion of cartilage in their body. Dr William Lane increased the interest in this by publishing two books (in 1992 and 1996), suggesting in their titles that sharks don't get cancer. This claim however, isn't true; sharks can get cancer.

At least a dozen studies on shark cartilage as a treatment for cancer have been conducted since 1970. Some of the result indicated that Sharks cartilage may help stabilize brain cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. 1983, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was proven that shark cartilage contains a protein that inhibits the formation of blood vessels to tumours.

It is still not clear exactly how shark cartilage works. Though is possible that the benefits come from low-molecular-weight molecules. Preliminary research suggests that these molecules may possess anti-angiogenic activity. These activities that could help explain any possible antitumor activity by preventing the production of blood vessels. Cancers need to develop their own blood supply as they grow so that blood vessels can supply the tumour cells with blood and oxygen, without which the tumours eventually die.

It is interesting to note that other substances from shark cartilage are also demonstrating antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.


Shark cartilage is available in three different forms;

Capsules - 250 mg, 500 mg, 740 mg, 750 mg

Powder - 6 g/scoop

Tablets - 740 mg, 750 mg

In the UK, shark cartilage is sold as a food supplement and not a drug. You can buy it over most health food store counter.

Side Effects

The research that as already been conducted, has highlighted a number of side effects;

  • Changes in sense of taste
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion


  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid shark cartilage supplementation.
  • Those with renal failure or liver failure should exercise caution in the use of shark cartilage.
  • Those with cancer who wish to try shark cartilage must only do so under medical supervision.

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