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Steve Jobs Succumbs to Alternative Medicine

by Brian Dunning, Oct 06 2011

I’m sad that today I’m adding a slide to one of my live presentations, adding Steve Jobs to the list of famous people who died treating terminal diseases with woo rather than with medicine.

Seven or eight years ago, the news broke that Steve Jobs had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but considering it a private matter, he delayed in informing Apple’s board, and Apple’s board delayed in informing the shareholders. So what. The only delay that really mattered was that Steve, it turned out, had been treating his pancreatic cancer with a special diet [UPDATE] prescribed by the alternative medicine promoter Dr. Dean Ornish.

Most pancreatic cancers are aggressive and always terminal, but Steve was lucky (if you can call it that) and had a rare form called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, which is actually quite treatable with excellent survival rates — if caught soon enough. The median survival is about a decade, but it depends on how soon it’s removed surgically. Steve caught his very early, and should have expected to survive much longer than a decade. Unfortunately Steve relied on a diet instead of early surgery. There is no evidence that diet has any effect on islet cell carcinoma. As he dieted for nine months, the tumor progressed, and took him from the high end to the low end of the survival rate.

Why did he do this? Well, outsiders like us can’t know; but many who avoid medical treatment in favor of unproven alternatives do so because they’ve been given bad information, without the tools or expertise to discriminate good from bad. Steve was exposed to such bad information, as are we all.

Eventually it became clear to all involved that his alternative therapy wasn’t working, and from then on, by all accounts, Steve aggressively threw money at the best that medical science could offer. But it was too late. He had a Whipple procedure. He had a liver transplant. And then he died, all too young.

My whole family loves Apple devices. Steve made our lives better, and I think I can say that pragmatically and without any Apple heroin in my veins. Not only that, he created my profession.

His lifelong friend Bill Gates tweeted:

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with Steve, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.

I saw another tweet today from @DamonLindelof that I thought was beautifully worded:

Steve Jobs. On behalf of every dreamer sitting in his or her garage who is crazy enough to try to change the world, you will be missed.

We can’t say for sure that Steve would still be alive and making lives better were it not for the alternative therapy, but the statistics suggest it very strongly. If you insist on unproven therapies, fine; but also try the proven ones while you’re at it. Nobody likes to either write or read a post such as this one.

For a more expert response to this post, see Dr. David Gorski’s critique at Science Based Medicine.

235 Responses to “Steve Jobs Succumbs to Alternative Medicine”

  1. John Jaworski says:

    Well… It’s hard to say. perhaps the alternative therapy bought him another year. Even if it only bought him another day… I’m thankful we had Steve for another day.

    • Silly says:

      Prove it. No diet is likely by any stretch of the imagination to improve pancreatic cancers. Moreover, that’s not the point. The point is, if there weren’t dreadful scam artists supporting “Medicine” which has no known efficacy, then people would have no choice but to rely on proven medicine. Or if at least people KNEW that the CAM were useless in the treating of illness, then they would be making an informed decision, which is what medical treatment is all about, letting the patient making informed choices.
      One day with Jobs may have been better than nothing, but having him for potentially longer, had he had the treatment, is the only yardstick to measure the success against (Especially as the median survival time quoted was 10 years, which conforms with Jobs’ life span after diagnosis.)

      • anon says:

        A friends father who was diagnosed with the more deadly version of Pancreatic cancer (12 month median survival) had a single chemo treatment, then decided just to let things take their course. Less than a month later, he was dead.

        About a year passed, and I was diagnosed at 43yrs. old (the deadly type). I was very aggressive, lining up the best surgeon (travel), treatment plan, trying to find clinical trials, etc., but, after surgery, and a few chemo treatments, I understood better, my friend’s father’s decision. I was barely able to function.

        I am now in month 11 since diagnosis. A more tolerable chemo regimen, and more or less whole after the surgery.

        There is no more personal decision, than a decision about your own life and death. No more humbling experience than writing your Will, with your son sitting next to you, and you pretending to be brave. I am happy with my decision. Whatever Mr. Jobs’s choice was, it was his alone to make.

        I understand the author’s intent, to use this as a teaching moment, but there are many factors that might have influenced Mr. Jobs. Read up on the mortality rate of the Whipple surgery, and you will see that alone may have given him pause.

        @silly, It is also not either or. Surgery, various chemo drugs (I refer to them as rat poison, but I might not be here but for that rat poison), but also cruciferous vegetables, spinach, some types of mushrooms, aspirin, hell even ecstasy and pot all can be part of a cancer treatment plan. Chemo can be nasty stuff, I lost some hearing, have bad peripheral neuropathy, etc., but considering the alternative, it was worth it _for me_.

    • Kooz says:

      There’s no mechanism and no reason to think that diet would work in this instance. In fact, sicne we *know* medical has proven effective in extending life for cases like this, it’s fair to say that his failure to turn to medical science and instead use an alternative therapy did not”[buy] him another day,” but in fact actively cost him a couple of years (and that if he fell into the median). It isn’t hard to say–it’s easy–alt. med. kills.

      • Gary says:

        I think some people are (possibly) missing the point. Steve jobs may well have had experience of this and other cancers, and may well have adopted a “quality not quantity” approach to his illness. it may have been his personal choice to have 5 or 6 ok years, than 4 awfull ones racked by chemo etc, followed by another 2 or 3 not so good ones. From personal experience, when my father was diagnosed with a brain tumour (GBM) he opted for radiation therapy which completely floored him, andhe died 8 months later: retrospectively, i know that he wouldnt have had treatment if he could have seen the outcome. Bottom line, it was Steve Jobs choice, he was an intelligent man, and there is no use trying to second guess his motives.

      • tmac57 says:

        Gary,there are many things that we would do differently if we knew ahead of time what the outcome would be.But none of us have that option.We just have to do the best with what we DO know,and that can be a problem when there is a lot of bad information floating around out there to influence us.That is why this blog and the Skeptic movement in general exists: To help people think critically,and use the best information available,and the scientific method to sort out what is reality from fiction.
        Unfortunately,when it comes down to critical health decisions,it is not always so clear cut.There are many factors,and always risks and benefits,and even those aren’t always known,or clearly articulated to those involved.

      • gloro says:

        Neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer is not normally treated with chemo or radiation. It simply is not a choice he would have to make in this case.

    • Linda Anderson says:

      I had one small neuroendcrine tumore in my Pancreas, I had it removed 2 weeks later with the whipple procedure. It is now 5 years later and I have 50+ tumors in my liver. It does not matter if you were on any kind of diet for 9 months. At one year and two and three and four years all was well at five years 50+ tumors in my liver. chemo nor surgery will save me. Even a new liver will not save me. It is what it is.
      Linda Anderson

    • Carole says:

      Since Skeptics are supposed to be fact and science based, here are the facts about pancreatic cancer:

      “According to the American Cancer Society, for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year relative survival rate is 20%, and the five-year rate is 4%. These low survival rates are attributable to the fact that fewer than 20% of patients’ tumors are confined to the pancreas at the time of diagnosis; in most cases, the malignancy has already progressed to the point where surgical removal is impossible.”

      Steve lived 8 years after his diagnosis. Looking at facts and figures instead of conjecture, Steve BEAT the odds, apparently through some of the alternative therapies he was using. To fantasize that he would have been cured if only he had done the surgery ignores his statistical chance for longer survival.

      To reject the fact that alternative therapies around the world are creating good results with some cancers is as closed-minded as to reject the fact that surgery and chemotherapy are having good results with some cancers.

  2. Omar says:

    Is there a reliable source for the information that Steve Jobs delayed proven treatment in favor of woo? (In his famous Stanford speech from 2005, he said he was lucky that his cancer was treatable with surgery, which implies he had the surgery. He could simply be omitting the fact that he had it later than necessary, but that’s not what it sounded like at all.)

  3. Trimegistus says:

    I suspect this post would be better received if you’d waited a week. Right now it just sounds petulant and self-absorbed.

    • Jarvis Puttinghet says:

      I don’t see why waiting a week would make the article any less course for those who want to read courseness into it. It should be perfectly possible to sympathise and lament the death of someone without having to pretend it wasn’t suicide. Besides, in the blogosphere there is already nonsense going around that Steve Jobs’ kind of cancer has a particularly low survival rate. Sometimes truth hurts and we must accept that.

      • asdf says:

        Coarse, not course.

      • Jarvis Puttinghet says:

        Thank you, you’re absolutely right.

      • SocraticGadfly says:

        I thought it was great other than the “fawning” part. When we have civil rights leaders like Rev. Shuttlesworth and Derrick Bell die on the same day, they deserve more respect.

        Besides, between being a faux-Buddhist driving Chinese serfs to suicide, a fake environmentalist, and a denier of his own daughter’s paternity, he doesn’t deserve that much respect.

      • SocraticGadfly says:

        And, forgot my link to my accumulating list of Steve Jobs jokes, started the day he announced his resignation as CEO. Call it Gilbert Gottfried contrarian and cynical.

      • Mario says:

        Well he is not the first or last to do that, many times I’ve seen people ditch proper treatment in favor of nonsense alternative ones, what shock us is that he was considered a very smart guy and with enough brain to avoid following dogmas and preconceived ideas but he was just as human as us and hey remember that Bill Maher is some kind of vaccine denial guy, and he considers himself an skeptic.

        Regarding respect to him, remember that he was the one who thought and made possible for us to have a PC in every house back when most just laugh at that idea, he built them and sold them until people realize how great of an idea it is, he also made a reality computer animated pictures putting money and opening doors to Pixar guys, nowadays we use computer animations for more than just movies, so those two reasons are at least for me enough to have respect for the guy…ohh I almost forgot his company Apple which he pick up close to bankruptcy also came up with a couple of good products too.

    • Tom says:

      You are probably right about the timing. Regarding the content, I had not read this anywhere else (maybe due to Apple’s legendary secrecy). If true, it is probably worthwhile to get the news out there so other people can make better decisions.

      • Tadej says:

        Well, as far as I know he (Steve) said that himself in the famous Stanford University speech (that it’s a rare form of pancreatic cancer with high survival rates). Check it out for yourself on YouTube or elsewhere. Just my 2 cents.

      • David says:

        Just to counter the negativity in many of the responses, I think this was an excellently worded and timed post—not an I told you so, but a teaching moment.

    • Shaun says:

      Couldn’t disagree more.

      Phrases such as ‘My whole family loves Apple devices’ and ‘Steve made our lives better’ are very, very far from being petulant. Likewise, the judgement that it is ‘self-absorbed’ is frankly beyond me – the writer only refers to himself once, noting that Jobs’ work effectively helped create the sector he works in (in essence, acknowledge Jobs’ importance to himself as an example of the man’s wider significance – that’s hardly self-importance).

      The rest of the article is taken up with references to Jobs’ condition, his chosen method of initially treating it, and some background medical information.

      I don’t think the article is ‘too soon’, as I think it’s actually pretty sensitively written, and it highlights two related matters of great importance in cancer treatment and survival: early identification and appropriate treatment.

      • Silly says:

        I agree. The use of the praise takes the edge off what could be a condemming and cruel post, and lets the reader be able to see that the aim is not to criticise a respected man, but to show in a topical manner, the harm that can be caused by CAM.

    • Ben says:

      The timing is good, very well received here.

    • Dan says:

      Wait, do you actually feel personally offended with the death of a celebrity you probably don’t know in person? Wow, you may have issues yourself. I found this post very informative and timely. Thumbs up!

      • Linda Anderson says:

        I had a small tumor in my Pancreas. We found it early and I went to the best surgeon in the country, Dr John Cameron at Johns Hopkins hospital.

        I had the whipple proedure, and thought to be cured. five years later during my yearly ct scans they just found 50+ tumors in my liver. With chemo they told me I would live maybe one year. I chose no chemo and Im still here 7 months later without illness. So nothing in life is promised!

        Do what you think is the best way for you & hope

    • SW says:

      If anything is petulant and self-absorbed its these scumbags:

      • mrcranky says:

        Holy crap, the amount of crazy in the comments on that article is even worse than in the article itself.

      • K. C. says:

        Seems to me both articles are trying to capitalize on a tragedy to push their own particular agenda. Both conventional cancer treatments and natural alternatives have proven track records and failures. If find both articles offensive trash written by journalists with an axe to grind.

        I am dubious about the accuracy in this article. According to what I see out there, Steve Jobs was treating his cancer with both alternative nutritional therapies and conventional methods from the get go. Perhaps one of his family members will allow themselves to be manipulated into scapegoating nutritional therapy or radio/chemo-therapy as well.

      • LaCroix says:

        Have you read the post? It says that he did both, and that he started with the diet and after 9 months of cancer he switched to real medicine.

        If you read the idiots at Natural News they dont say a word about his diet-treatment. So they try to hide that he started with a “natural” treatment.

      • K says:

        Conventional treatments don’t always work, but they are proven to work significantly often. Alternative treatments are either proven not to work, or not proven to work. That is not a “proven track record”.

        You know what we call Alternative Medicine that works? We call it “Medicine”.

        As for NaturalNews: It takes only seconds to understand that they are liars and nothing more, advertising “free energy” devices which cannot hope to work without breaking the laws of physics.

      • Silly says:

        “Offensive Trash”? That’s a bit harsh, especially since this article is at least respectful, and is not in any way about criticising the deceased.

        “From the get go.” Congratulations, now specify a time, or provide a link, as the writer did. Unreferenced hearsay is not eligible evidence in skeptical conversation.

        “Axe to grind.” Of course Dunning has an axe to grind: A man is dead, and potentially wouldn’t be if he had not used CAM, and instead used actual effective treatment. It’s a shame that misinformation can hurt people, only to line the pockets of liars and cheats.

  4. It always amazes and saddens me when otherwise intelligent people ignore science in favor of wishful thinking. And there’s always a charlatan willing to make money off of other people’s misfortunes. Very sad. I’m neither a techie nor particularly knowledgeable about Steve Jobs but I’m typing this comment on my MacBook, a tool I absolutely love and rely on… RIP Mr. Jobs.

  5. Feuerzeug says:

    As far as I can see online, Jobs had surgery in august 2004, the same year he was diagnosed with cancer.

    So maybe he did not entirely trust in his diet to save him…

  6. Pete B says:

    Mike Adams is at it already too:

    Usual conspiracy mongering mumbo-jumbo.

    • Kristen says:

      Are you serious?
      What’s so great about an article claiming “Jobs Succumbs to Alternative Medicine”. How in the hell does anyone know what caused him to lose the fight?
      You think it’s acceptable for this fool to state Jobs died from eating healthy but it’s wrong for a natural health website to claim he died from toxic radiation and chemotherapy.
      Quite hypocritical and sheeplike.

      • Silly says:

        It’s not saying that it caused him to lose the fight. It’s saying that the CAM was useless, and the time was wasted. Also, check the article, where references are actually cited.
        “In the end, however, even Steve Jobs could not overturn the laws of biochemistry. When you poison the human body, the result is the deterioration and eventual shut down of the body. Chemotherapy does not work! This fact should now be obvious, and yet every year, more and more people choose chemotherapy to their own demise — people like Farrah Fawcett, Peter Jennings, Patrick Swayze, Michael Douglas and many others

        Learn more:
        Read that. That’s what’s in that article. It says that Chemotherapy is a poison which led to Jobs’ death, (Without any reference to prove Chemotheraypy’s lack of efficacy or to counter the approval of it by the FDA) and hence proposes CAM.

        Skeptics aren’t selling anything. We have no stake but the truth. If you can honestly compare the lies, the evil (Yes, I’m going to use the term evil to describe scum sucking snake oil salespeople), to an article intending in the kindest possible way to use the death of a well known and influential figure to help inform people of the dangers of forgoing the treatment of illness with SBM, but instead with CAM, then you are an idiot.

        Nowhere on this site does it explicitely state that eating a different diet to combat sickness is a bad thing, except when the process of doing so conflicts with using proper, scientifically founded treatment.

      • Jack H says:

        It’s a known fact that surgery and chemo are most effective when applied in early-stage cancers.

        Delaying (and thus sharply lowering the success rates of) targeted treatments that have been rigorously tested in favor of hand-waving, coffee enemas, supersized Centrum, rebranded yoga, and increased kale intake is utterly idiotic.

        Characterizing this article as stating that “Jobs died from eating healthy” is nothing less than flagrant lying, much like attempting to characterize a critique of prayer healing as “so-and-so died from having a positive attitude” is unadulterated poppycock.

      • Guy McCardle says:

        It was never stated that Steve Jobs died from eating healthy foods. I think the main premise of the article is that had Mr. Jobs immediately, as soon as he was diagnosed, medically treated his cancer he may be alive today. It is a cautionary tale to the living that to delay treatment of a serious condition in favor of woo may prove to be a fatal mistake.

  7. The above comment about the timing of this may be right. But Jobs’ life’s work was, in part, about creating tools that could be used to bring knowledge into people’s lives more easily … and as such, I think he’d want people to learn from this cautionary tale. It’s important to note that he DID turn to actual medicine … but, as noted, the time he wasted on non-medicine may have made the difference in the outcome of the disease.

  8. Feuerzeug says:

    Okay, so I found this article,, which seems to be the root of it.

    Can’t really find any proof that Jobs did know about his cancer as early as in October 2003, though.

    Not sure what to make of this.

  9. David S. says:

    The problem with this article is it’s based on rumour, hearsay and a total lack of knowledge of what Steve Jobs actually died from.

    Trusting a press report about what he did or did not do following his original cancer diagnosis (particularly given Jobs’ famous secrecy about his personal life) is at best unwise and using it as an example of what can happen when you trust your life to alternative medicine is foolish (because that’s what you’ll look if it turns out he died from something else).

    I recall that there were other reports at the time that he had proposed using alternative medicine when first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but had been talked out of the idea by his doctors and family. I don’t know which version is true (if either), nor do you.

    For all anyone knows at the moment Steve Jobs died because his liver transplant failed, maybe severe rejection set in and nothing could be done? Maybe the liver he got was itself cancerous and it wasn’t picked up until afterwards? Or maybe he did indeed wait to long before having the original cancer surgery and it then recurred. We simply don’t know (and may never know).

    Perhaps the upcoming biography of Jobs will fill in some of the blanks and then a more solidly based article can be written.

  10. Tom Strong says:

    I worked at Apple most of the last 10 years and we saw a lot of misinformation in the press regarding Steve’s medical history and treatment, and that includes your one source, the Forbes article. You’ll see in his upcoming biography that Steve never left science-based medicine. But I guess using poor, unconfirmed sources for your arguments is ok when YOU do it, Brian. So disappointing.

    • Max says:

      Where did you get information regarding Steve’s medical history, from corporate communications?

    • Silly says:

      So you saw your bosses confidential medical history as a mere employee? Wow, I really haven’t had much trust from my employer have I!

  11. baldywilson says:

    I really hope you have a reliable source for your claim, as a speech he gave in 2005 would beg to differ

  12. Jay says:

    As far as I know, this is the first time I hear claims that Mr Jobs relied on alternative therapies to treat his medical condition. I would love to see some references to find out more about this.

    • Joshua B. says:

      It’s mentioned in several articles, but they all seem to cite the same CNN Money article from 2008 as their reference.

      If anyone can dig up where that article got its information, then we might be on to something.

      • SocraticGadfly says:

        Knowing how secretive and tyrannical Jobs was, this was off-the-record from company insiders.

      • Interesting says:

        It would be good to backtrace the source of the information. Although, just by doing the maths (Just from the times stated on the CNN link, the dates of Diagnosis and surgery) he waited 9 months before having surgery, after diagnosis. Which means that either he was relying on CAM, some hitherto unspecified treatment, or nothing.

  13. I agree wholeheartedly with Trimegistus. Furthermore, your headline is inexcusable. You have no grounds whatsoever for making that sensationalistic claim. You admit that you have no idea whether the therapeutic choices Jobs made had any impact. And unless you somehow have illegal access to his medical records, you also don’t know all of the treatment that he may or may not have had. You chose the death of a celebrity to make a self-serving point (from the perspective of your blog), and to ride the tide of interest in coverage of Jobs in the hours after his passing.


    • Mentally Retarded says:

      It’s public knowledge when he had surgery. And the point may be sensationalist, but the aim is not “Self Serving”. It’s not as if we’re selling Chemotherapy is it? It’s about using a topical example to educate people.
      It may be insensitive to some, but what are we going to do, wait ten years so that it’s OK to make comments about the dead guy?

  14. Sonny says:

    Where’s the evidence of his using alternative medicine? Legit citations would make your skepticism seem less speculative.

  15. Sonny says:

    I meant, where’s the evidence that he delayed conventional treatment while trying alternative therapies; the Fortune story describes – though it poorly sources – what he did do. It isn’t clear on what he didn’t.

    I think your post is largely legit, but given the lack of reliable, confirmed info, your headline is overly sensationalistic.

    • CountryGirl says:

      The evidence is that he delayed using science based options until it was too late. When I had serious cancer the surgeon scheduled an operating room before I had even had a CT scan. Where was the urgency for Jobs?

    • Wrong says:

      Delayed conventional Treatment evidence: Diagnosed, October 2003, Operated on, July 2004. 9 Months. That’s a delay. Case Closed.
      Also, either he was relying on a treatment over that 9 months which did not work, or he was doing nothing while cancer killed him. A guy as smart as that? I’m going to say that whatever he did, it was unlikely he did nothing.

  16. Rose says:

    Great post. I didn’t know about that but I’m glad there’s an additional case study (and one that hits home with many of us) to use against alternative medicine. And I think you were plenty sensitive and not self-absorbed at all (because hey, you’re smart enough not to use alternative medicine, so my thought is that you’re putting this out there for OTHERS). Thanks.

  17. I was thinking the same thing when I read that he treated it with diet for 9 months before doing something different. Thanks for the additional information and I think you stated everything very well. You didn’t blame it all on the alternative treatments you just laid out facts tastefully.

  18. John says:

    Because . . . most people don’t die a miserable death undergoing chemo? Classless, tactless, ignorant.

  19. Erick says:

    So for all the people who die after using proven therapy you can say “People succumbs to proven medicine”

    • CountryGirl says:

      Wrong! For most serious cancers and other diseases modern medicine cannot “save” you it can only extend your life. So you conclude not being “saved” is a failure of modern medicine, it is not.

  20. Andy says:

    I’m sure Jobs would have been grateful he was able to serve as an object lesson for the “I told you so,” crowd. No doubt many lives will be saved today by this public tut-tutting.

    • Hmmm says:

      We could just not use examples. We could resist proving claims. We could avoid proving or testing anything. And then our points about the dangers of CAM-only treatment would be as unproven as CAM themselves.

  21. Benjamin Southworth says:

    Erm, he did have surgery he mentions it in his stanford commencement speech. I’m not sure you’ve got your facts straight on this, and would like to see proof of your allegations. Also, your fundamentally link-baiting by posting this now. This makes me skeptically about your levels of compassion.

    A simple google proves you wrong:

    • Joshua B. says:

      Mr. Dunning also states that Mr. Jobs had surgery in the article: “Steve aggressively threw money at the best that medical science could offer. But it was too late. He had a Whipple procedure.”

      A Whipple procedure is another name for a pancreaticoduodenectomy. The Dunning conjecture is that the delay in getting Mr. Jobs’ pancreaticoduodenectomy allowed the tumor to spread, lowering his time of survival.

      It is just that: conjecture. (Though, to be fair, there is science behind that makes the conjecture plausible, anyway.)

    • Fuck Compassion says:

      I have little to no compassion for a man I did not know. I really don’t care much either way. The world loses a great innovator, the world moves on. And yes, he may be link baiting (Skepticism is about spreading the truth about things, in my view, and indeed many, it is about science education and critical thinking), but if looking to be noticed whilst giving a good message is a bad thing, then you must reconsider all advertism and evangelism.
      Also, read the entire fucking article and not just the headline you idiot. The article says he underwent surgery. A simple Owning of A Pair of Eyes proves you wrong: Fuck your stupid head : <-These are representative of the eyes you should have used.

  22. Tyler Weston says:

    This post is trite and condescending no matter how long it came after Jobs’ death. Dealing with death is a personal matter. You have no right to demand that anyone submit themselves to the cold, alienated approach of aggressive medical treatment. Let people pass with dignity, however they choose.

    In fact, the statistics show that people who skip the N+1th round of chemo and switch to hospice care have better outcomes.

    • CountryGirl says:

      In the last 3 years my father in law and mother in law (different times) died from lung cancer, got chemo and eventually got hospice. I can tell you from experience that hospice is NOT designed to “help” you medically it is designed to allow you to die cheaply. Most people in hospice die from lack of care ( I recognize they would die eventually anyway) while the family member attends them blissfully unaware their loved one is dying from dehydration but so drugged they cannot express their condition. Hospice is NOT a treatment for cancer it is assisted suicide.

      • Dratoms says:

        The kind of tuMour he had, neuroendocrine, is entirely treatable by surgery alone provided its caught early with probably no need of chemo. However such tumours are not diagnosed early unless they are functional (symptomatic due to the large amounts of hormones they produce) If the fact that he might have waited for nine months for a surgery is true than that was really an unwise step from a man such as Jobs, unless he had other compeling reasons (like already metastasised).
        As far as hospices are concerned Country girl is absolutely right, they literally starve them to death. Only thing is that they won’t know because they are constantly being pumped with morphine and the works.

  23. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning this–it’s something I’ve seen barely mentioned elsewhere. The woo, it can kill.

  24. Scott says:

    Steve Jobs and everyone else on this planet has a right to make their own medical decisions. Every time you see an overweight person do you think “Obese Person Succumbs to Bad Lifestyle Choice”? There is little purpose in criticizing a single person’s life choices especially right after their death. Jobs did not publicize his personal, medical decision, and as far as I know, he is not a strong advocate for alternative medicine. Let the man rest in peace. If you want to criticize something, you should simply criticize alternative medicine in general, but please refrain from using someone’s death as an opportunity to push your own agenda in the future.

    • CountryGirl says:

      The intent is not to criticize Jobs but to awaken those who prefer medicine based on superstitution over medicine based on science. You can still go to Mexico and get laetrile treatments. Should that be criticized???

      • Scott says:

        My point was that Job’s medical history and death is at best anecdotal evidence. My issue with the blog is that it misrepresents Job’s medical history as if it somehow proves that alternative medicine is bad. One occurrence of an outcome proves nothing and simply because the person involved is famous does not change that fact.

        In view of the above, I thought it was in bad taste to use Job’s death for this purpose.

      • CountryGirl says:

        An autopsy is in bad taste but we perform them because of the benefits of learning more about illnesses and their effects on the human body. Discussing Jobs death and causes is no more in bad taste then discussing anything related to serious diseases. How it could possibly offend you escapes me.

      • How else? says:

        We could just not use examples. But the point is, along with the evidence, which abounds, to demonstrate in a way that people can understand, what the danger of CAM is. All people have the right to their choice of treatment. Screw that. All people have the right to be informed of the effects of treatment. Surgery requires informed consent. CAM requires a lack of information, and exploits people who genuinely need help. This isn’t a statistic, it’s a case study.

  25. Chris Wall says:

    I find it highly dubious that your site claims to be a skeptic’s blog, yet you are posting unverified rumor the day after someone has died.

    Jobs did not make a habit of discussing his illness or treatment in public. In his 2005 Stanford address he clearly states that surgical options were tried and he was (at the time) cancer free. Sometimes cancer comes back.

    So – let’s get some hard data to back your claim (it is, after all, your obligation since you made the claim). Prove to us that this is not some cynical attempt at grabbing page views the day after a famous man’s death.

  26. Max says:

    “People Suffering? Yippee!!!”

    “Not to put myself on a pedestal, but I can’t think of a single time I’ve taken joy in the misfortune of innocent victims because it made me feel good about my politics.”

    Of course this post about Jobs isn’t “joyful gloating.” Only others who say “I told you so” are gloating.

    • Matthew says:


      Brian does not come across as gloating.

      Do you have facts that are contrary to what are presented in this post?

    • Eternally Learning says:

      I assume you’re being sarcastic in your last line, but either way I agree with it. This is hardly joyful gloating and so far as I can tell, the only ones who’ve engaged in saying, “I told you so” exist only in your head.

    • Max says:

      Brian is not gloating in this post, but if you go to the above link, you’ll see that he accused others of gloating over the Fukushima nuclear disaster. He said, “To react to that with glee and an arrogant ‘I told you so,’ simply because it supposedly bolsters your anti-nuke ideology, disgusted me. What kind of a sicko would have such a reaction?”
      Brian didn’t post any examples, but given his history of straw man arguments, it’s likely that most of those people were not gloating but doing the same thing he’s doing in this post.

      • Eternally Learning says:

        So that’s the argument you’re going to go with then? “Brian didn’t share the comments he referenced before so I choose to believe he made them up or exaggerated them so I choose to believe this article is hypocritical?” Sorry dude. You may very well be right, but based on what’s been presented, your post is little more than saying “I don’t like Brian Dunning,” which is fine, but don’t try to make it seem like you’re adding relevent new information to the conversation.

      • Max says:

        I think I explained it more clearly than you did, and I doubt that beliefs are a choice.
        My comment was directed at Dunning more than anyone to make him think twice about how he responds to critics.

  27. How do you know all these details?

  28. Lol Mahmood says:

    Unfortunately, your timing is spot on. In fact, the woo/naturopath industrial complex beat you to the punch! See this ridiculous article on ‘natural': “Steve Jobs dead at 56, his life ended prematurely by chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer”

    Here’s a typical quote:
    “It is extremely saddening to see the cost in human lives that modern society pays for its false belief in conventional medicine and the cancer industry in particular. Visionary Steve Jobs died today, just months after being treated for cancer with chemotherapy at the Stanford Cancer Center in Palo Alto, California. In recent months, he appeared in public photos as a frail shadow of his former self. The thin legs, sunken cheek bones and loss of body weight are all classic signs of total body toxicity observed in chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients”.

    These people are evil fuckwits.

  29. BB says:

    Very well said and not at all too soon. These things need to be said while it can still make a strong impact.

  30. John says:

    Because any mis-informed nimrod can buy into popular opinion or false doctrine, here are the facts for you. While you have a right to be skeptical base your opinions on the facts.

    And these are the facts . . .

    When a person has cancer they have two choices A) treat the cancer with chemotherapy, endure the hell of that experience, and know that you have a 2.1% chance of living more than 5 more years (of 3256 people treated for pancreatic cancer none – ie, not even one – of them lived more than 5 years) or B) take your *chances* with an alternative approach which will, at the least, provide a higher quality of life for the time one has left.

    Unfortunately there is only one LEGAL way to treat cancer in the United States and that’s with a PROVEN ineffective and debilitating approach known as chemotherapy. Therefore we only have the claims of “quacks”, right?

    Here’s a chart originally published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology:

    Although many will classify Mercola as a “quack” and I’m not a fan myself, you won’t find these number published online (any longer) by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, which originally published it. Now, why do you think that is? In case the answer isn’t clear, that’s because it’s pretty damned hard to sell a course of treatment with a 2% effectiveness that will leave most families bankrupt. Now . . . you have something to be truly skeptical of rather than blindly following the “authorities” like sheep.

    And shame on you for questioning Steve Jobs personal health decisions.

    • Joshua B. says:

      “When a person has cancer they have two choices A) treat the cancer with chemotherapy, endure the hell of that experience, and know that you have a 2.1% chance of living more than 5 more years (of 3256 people treated for pancreatic cancer none – ie, not even one – of them lived more than 5 years) or B) take your *chances* with an alternative approach which will, at the least, provide a higher quality of life for the time one has left. ”

      False. “Cancer” refers to thousands of different particular conditions. Mr. Jobs had islet cell carcinoma. His prospect of living for several more years with surgical therapies and without chemotherapy was quite good. He did indeed live 7 more years, which is within the confidence interval for patients with localized islet cell carcinoma.

      See Yao et al, 2007:

    • CountryGirl says:

      Jobs pancreatic cancer was very rare and not like the others you cite in that it was more treatable.

      There is NO proven alternative treatment for cancer. NONE, ZIP NADA. There is only “clinics” designed to separate the patient from their money. They are the worst kind of fraud.

      I used to think the same thing about chemo as you expressed. Then my father in law went through chemo with zero side effects. He lived five years before his lung cancer killed him which is about 4 years longer then typical. Probably his good fortune was in early diagnoses, but there is little doubt the chemo extended his life. Given his disease that was his best outcome. Should he have choosed to not “endure the hell of that experience” and died in a year or two?? Before having actually seen him go through chemo with no problems I might have agreed with you. But it does in fact workout quite well for many with cancer.

    • Jack H says:

      Anyone who talks about “cancer” as a monolithic disease with regards to treatment has no business pretending to dictate “the facts.”

      Further, “alternative treatments” aren’t illegal. They simply refuse to submit themselves to rigorous clinical study, which disqualifies them from officially being medical treatment, in the same way that “dietary supplements” are perfectly legal, as long as you don’t them “medicines.”

      If you have anything beyond obfuscation and (hopefully intentional) gross ignorance about the nature of cancer to bolster your claim of this grand conspiracy against the do-gooder underdogs of the “alternative treatment” industry, feel free to share at your leisure.

  31. Ian says:

    “We can’t say for sure that Steve would still be alive and making lives better were it not for the alternative therapy”

    If you can’t say it, why title this post “STEVE JOBS SUCCUMBS TO ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE”?

    • CountryGirl says:

      I suppose if you don’t understand statistics and probabilities that you are right. However Jobs particular cancer was know to be treatable if caught early enough and typically would lead to 8 years or so of life over not treating it. The evidence shows Jobs choose to not treat it (except by voodoo) until he had lost that chance to treat it “early”. So although there is little in this world that we “can say for sure” I am willing to give your theory a try: I will bet you one million dollars that you cannot roll snake eyes with dice 10 times in a row. Since you disregard or are unaware of the odds you should jump at this chance to prove it could indeed happen. I await your decision.

  32. This is a very interesting article. Do you have some reference to support this statement? “actually quite treatable with excellent survival rates — if caught soon enough. The median survival is about a decade, but it depends on how soon it’s removed surgically”. I was asked about this after I shared this article with some friends. It’s a key point of your argument, so I think it may be important to have a solid reference behind it.

  33. Good article. Waiting a week would change nothing, save one important thing: the death of Steve Jobs would no longer be the main news of the day, and this blog post, this very important post, would be less visible.

    Any writer must strive for balance in content, timing, sensitivity, objectivity, etc. This article’s importance argues for publishing sooner rather than later (use whatever metaphor you wish), sharing potentially life saving information.

    Had Jobs sought different treatment, we would not be arguing about sensitivity, we would (still) be arguing over how poor the iPhone 4S is, but how great a job he did pitching it, and Cook would likely still be COO.

    The timing is right: Remind people now while Jobs is news that some treatments are demonstrably and factually better than others. Add saving the lives of others through his example to his legacy. A crooked addition to that legacy, perhaps, but an important one.

  34. Artie Gold says:

    I took a look at the piece frankly expecting to find it inappropriate and coarse. I found it to be neither of these things.

    One point: Sometimes people go “their own way” on things. Often they’re wrong. Sometimes the seemingly mistaken “own way” turns out to be just the right way; consider the early days of immunology, for example.

    May all who mourn find comfort; may sorrow be turned to celebration of a life.

  35. Stephen says:

    Many of us feel hurt about Mr. Job’s passing. Your writing was kind towards the alternative medicine industry, and I agreed with it. As an alternative medicine practitioner, I am very careful, and I strive to see each case realistically and treat according to an evidence based approach. I try to explain the realistic details to each person I work with and keep this in mind all along. Most importantly, I encourage each patient to consider the best approach. We can’t make people do what we suggest, and I don’t know the details of Mr. Job’s situation in enough detail, but I do hope he made the best decision that he saw fit for himself while consulting with both modern physicians and alternative practitioners.
    Above all, with respect to the details, I hope he and his family were happy and had many good moments together.

  36. Kyle says:

    Or all that medical science had to offer killed him. Either way: you’re a twit for posting this.

  37. Beelzebud says:

    Ugh… Stay classy, Dunning.

    • Eternally Learning says:

      Actually, if true (this is the first time I’d heard it) this is about as classy a way to tackle this topic as I could think of. He’s saying it’s sad we lost Jobs this soon when it was unneeded. I agree with Jarvis too; it’s important to get this out there before the lies take firm hold.

  38. pcj says:

    It’s Important to post things like this.

    A person died too soon, possibly in part due to bogus therapies.

    This situation is a good response to the “what’s the harm?” defense of alternative therapies.

    Not gloating, but saddened and frustrated that things like this keep happening.

  39. Drew Olanoff says:

    You’re not a Dr. Period. I’ve witnessed what pancreatic cancer does first hand. I suspect you have not, perhaps I’m wrong. You have no idea.

  40. Josh says:

    > “Of course this post about Jobs isn’t “joyful gloating.” Only others who say “I told you so” are gloating.”

    Pointing out the mistakes of others so they aren’t repeated isn’t gloating. That’s different than trumpeting that you were right for the sake of the recognition. And if you read that he is taking joy in the death of Steve Jobs in the post above you have a serious confirmation bias going on, because that really isn’t substantiated by what was actually written.

  41. Hilbert says:

    The timing might be questionable, but this is a serious matter. People die because of homeopathic hocuspocus. You need to get the word out to as many people as possible.

  42. The author seems to have quite a bit of inside information on a man that has been very private about his personal life. Do you somehow have inside information? OR As I suppose you are a… SPECULATING as to what really happened.

    I am skeptical of this author, his assertions and motivations…

  43. Zamous says:

    Out of curiosity, how do you know what Steve did as far as treatment? I would love to see some fact that he opted for a diet instead of surgery.

  44. Erik says:


    “About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.”

    “I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.” –

    You’re putting your theory together from almost absurdly indirect evidence and presenting it as fact. Why? Because you want to use his death as a platform to push your agenda?


  45. S says:

    I guess I’m confused. He had tried alternative treatment in 2004 and ended up having to have the “whipple procedure”. No radiation or chemo was needed and they said it was a success. When you say “too late, are you saying that when they removed the pancreas it had already metastasized to his liver?

    • Joshua B. says:

      See my longer comment for more detailed analysis. My basic verdict on what I’ll call the Dunning conjecture (i.e., that the delay in getting the surgery led increased morbidity and mortality rate) is plausible, but based on a lot of ifs, so it is speculative.

      Also, you can piece together the same analysis upon reading

      Population-Based Study of Islet Cell Carcinoma

  46. Luke says:

    Its not confirmed that he died from pancreatic cancer (the most likely cause).
    The only reference I could find that he used alternative medicine was the CCN/Fortune site you referenced.
    He kept his private life very out of the media and so couldn’t know if what Fortune reported was true (the media do have a habit of reporting a lot of incorrect information).

  47. drumdaddy says:

    Peace to Steve, peace to his family.

    Many years ago a senior from my high school accidentally died alone in his room while experimenting with scuba equipment. When my teacher addressed the class regarding the accident I expected a glowing tribute to the boy but was disgusted by the teacher’s impersonal remark, “This goes to show you how dangerous scuba gear can be when you are alone, always have a partner with you.” To me it seemed that the teacher didn’t care about the boy, but in fact he cared about the rest of us.

    The notion that Mr. Jobs demise was possibly preventable adds to the sorrow of a productive life ended too soon. If it is true that he delayed effective treatment to opt for naturopathic alternatives then I hope that his possibly susceptible family members take note of what may seem highly impersonal. That is, “This goes to show you that cancers can aggressively spread until they are untreatable by any modality, so always attack them as early as possible.”

    Again, peace Steve. You blew our minds, man.

  48. Jeffery2010 says:

    No gloating, Classy. Well said. It needs to get out there.

  49. Ben Barber says:

    Can you provide a reference for your statement that the “median survival rate is about a decade” for the surgical treatment of an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor?

    • Joshua B. says:

      Population-Based Study of Islet Cell Carcinoma

      To correct and expand on Mr. Dunning’s statement, the median survival rate is 10.3 years for _localized_ islet cell carcinoma. Other factors can change that estimate. See the article for full details.

      At any rate, Mr. Jobs survived within the 95% confidence interval for localized islet cell carcinoma, so this is pretty much speculative.

  50. nobo says:

    What is the point of this article.? Jobs underwent surgery already in 2004, quite soon after the cancer was discovered…

  51. Frank says:

    There are other points of view, e.g. that maybe his doctors were too aggressive. Check out “Do celebrities get the best care?”

    “Steve Jobs’ had an incidentaloma. It may have taken this tumor 15 or 20 years to cause symptoms. However, it may have taken 1 month. We won’t ever know. We do know that incidentalomas sometimes simply go away without rhyme or reason. And we do know that, in Jobs’ case, the doctors intervened with two major surgeries and, now, 8 years later, his health is severely compromised. Maybe if his doctors actually did nothing for him, he’d still be just fine today. There’s no real way to know. I do think that his docs did the right thing as competent doctors, but, again, there’s no way to know if they were competent in Steve Jobs’ case nor will we ever know that if they just left him alone, he would have been just fine.”

    • Dratoms says:

      How do you know that it was an incidentaloma.. It might have been diagnosed because it was symptomatic.

  52. HC says:

    This isn’t gloating any more than cursing fundamentalist Islam for taking the life of a young girl is gloating. It’s a tragedy that even those of us who didn’t like Steve Jobs are feeling. The world will be a less interesting place without him. Calling attention to why Steve is no longer with us is important. If Jobs’ mistake can save the lives of just a few misinformed people, then I think that’s worth the price of being coarse, even in the face of a grieving public. Brian’s probably going to get raked over the coals for this one but I thank him for writing it.

    Steve, I disagreed with almost everything you did and loathed the culture you propagated, but you were an earnest man who sincerely believed in making computers that served human needs and were easy enough for anyone to use. Your story should not have ended this way, and neither should anyone else’s.

  53. Lori says:

    I hadn’t followed Steve Jobs’ illness over the years, and while I’m amazed to learn that he delayed potentially curative surgery for 9 months, I think we need to be careful assuming that that delay lead to his premature death. Believe me, I am not a fan of alternative medicine, and like his colleagues, I would have worried and urged him to avoid the bogus “diet” option and go with the surgery.

    But here are the questions we need to answer, or perhaps the evidence we need to make the claim that he succumbed to CAM.

    First, I followed the links to learn more, but unfortunately, I can’t tell what type of islet cell carcinoma he had, which makes a difference for prognosis. Apparently, he was asymptomatic at diagnosis because the stories say it was found during a routine abdominal scan. That suggests that he had what’s called a non-functioning tumor (ie, it wasn’t producing lots of insulin or gastrin), but we still don’t know whether it was a slow-growing (indolent) or aggressive tumor; we don’t have any information about tumor grade. However, in general, non-functioning pancreatic islet cell tumors tend to be slow-growing.

    Next, we don’t know what stage his disease was at diagnosis and what it was 9 months later. Was it localized at diagnosis or did it invade nearby blood vessels, nerves, and/or other organs? Perhaps the Whipple (pancreaticoduodenectomy) was recommended at diagnosis and he didn’t really progress from diagnosis to the time of surgery. Maybe he was having serial scans the whole time and choose surgery because the tumor was staying the same size during his “diet” therapy rather than choosing the surgery only when the tumor advanced. We just don’t know. And I have not found a reference in the medical literature that says survival depends on how quickly the tumor is removed (as asserted in the post). Remember, this was probably an incidentaloma; it could have been growing undetected for years, and in the scheme of things, does that 9 months really matter? Maybe, but maybe not.

    I’m not a medical or surgical oncologist, but I am a pharmacist who’s worked in oncology for a few decades now. And, I’m a skeptic who wants to see more evidence to back this claim. Maybe it’s true that his cancer progressed in those 9 months and the treatment delay sealed his fate, but right now, that seems like speculation. In the absence of supportive evidence, perhaps the title of this post could be softened to something like, “Did Steve Jobs Succumb to Alternative Medicine?” That’s what I want to know; right now, the answer is unclear.

    • Joshua B. says:

      I arrived at a similar conclusion. What I’ve taken to calling the Dunning conjecture is plausible, but basically speculative given what we know.

      See my long comment for complete analysis. I based my analysis on the below study.

      Population-Based Study of Islet Cell Carcinoma

      (And, yes, I’ve basically made it my mission to link to this article as many times as possible in this comments section.)

  54. tmac57 says:

    As long as it is stated tactfully,there should be no moratorium on the truth.

  55. Luisito says:

    “Seven or eight years ago, the news broke that Steve Jobs had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (…) The median survival is about a decade”.
    That survival time seems close to the maximum expected. Also, you don’t say anything about how long did he wait before starting with an actual (medical) treatment, so your statement seems too bold to me.

    • Joshua B. says:

      Mr. Jobs length of survival is within the 95% confidence interval for localized islet cell carcinoma, though below the median of 10.3 months. However, other factors (such as location of the primary tumor in the pancreas) would change what the interval would be. See study below.

      Population-Based Study of Islet Cell Carcinoma

  56. November says:

    I appreciate this. I am a huge believer in alternative medicine. However, if the research pointed to small and early surgery, I would not hesitate. I don’t have any problem, really, with surgery. I do have a problem with the fact that after all these years and all the money (there’s a lot of money), the best they have to offer is what they started with: cut, burn, or poison. It’s not sufficient. All the research goes into better, newer cuts, burns, and poisons; rather than different ways.

    I think it’s important to point out things like this to those who stubbornly resist modern medicine in all ways. You have to use any medicine intelligently.

    Steve touched my life in every way. I don’t see any conflict in saying ‘let him touch again in his death, learn something.’

    • CountryGirl says:

      You are 100% correct in that after all these years and all the money spent that all they have is “cut, burn, or poison”. It saddens me that so little progress has been made. I can only add does that mean we should regress to witch doctors?

  57. BenJT says:

    Wow. You couldn’t even wait until he’s buried.

  58. Nostril Damus says:

    You claim to have extraordinary insights into Steve’s approach to treat his cancer, but offer no extraordinary proof.

    You criticize what you bluntly call “alternative medicine”, without any fact base.

    It makes you sound like a pharmaceutical company shill, not a Skeptic. You should rename your blog.

  59. Matthew Loop says:

    Come-on, Brian… “Unproven” therapies? How much personal experience do you have to really speak on this subject? Do you see and treat patients first-hand?

    One, you were not close to Steve Jobs and have no idea what else he was using. There are way too many other X factors here, especially with how cancer cells spread.

    We have no idea of how strict he was on his regimen AND also a naturopath does many things. Do you have the exact list of what his ND told him to do and not to do?

    Two, it sounds like you place way too much faith in medico-drug cartel and the American Medical Association. Many drug studies are falsified ghost-studies.

    The “fast” FDA approval process is a joke and their pockets are lined with blood money. Healthcare is a business… period.

    Yes, the average MD goes to school because he / she has a genuine interest in helping people but the model they’re indoctrinated into is flawed.

    It’s a symptom based model, not causative. The medical institutions were bought a paid for a long time ago by Rockefeller and other private interest groups.

    The mainstream route is to use chemo / radiation to hopefully kill the cancer before the lethal therapy kills you. They destroy your immune system and permanently damage tissue.

    The word “cure” has been bastardized and falsely claimed.

    There is a time and therapy for cancer surgery but chemo / radiation, in terms of effectiveness, is pure bullshit. Cancer is a big business.

    Maybe you might write a piece on how “modern” medical therapies and polypharmacy kill over 200,000 people per year in the US alone, making it the 3rd leading cause of death. That’s according to JAMA.

    Or, how Tylenol kills a few thousand people each year. Why don’t we compare that to how many die at the hands of natural medicine?

    Lastly, to look at how dangerous medical therapies are, call any insurance company. The average MD pays 10-15 times what a natural medicine provider pays.

    Why? Because, even they know you’re more likely to suffer an injury going to the medical doctor or conventional therapy.

    If you’re interested in learning about the history of the business of disease, I’d strongly recommend “The Cancer Industry” by Ralph Moss and watching the award winning documentary “Cut, Poison, and Burn.”

  60. Chris Howard says:

    His death has made me grateful for all the people who effect my life. I welled up, to my complete, and utter surprise, when I heard the news. I didn’t realize how much impact Mr. Jobs and company has had on my life.
    It has served as a reminder of the impact that you, and everyone at Skeptic has had on my life. Thank you.

  61. Kyra says:

    I am in no way recommending anything but biomedicine, nor do I practice alternative therapies of any kind, but unless you were his attending physician there is no way you can know enough about his particular cancer and the way it was metastasizing to know for sure what did or did not adversely effect him. Moreover, your post has a flavor of “how sad that he was dumb enough to do alternative medicine” to it, which you might not have intended. I would not call this “gloating” per se — but it is still in poor taste.

  62. Alex says:

    I am curious about what the source of this info is.

  63. Charlotte says:

    Please do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. In Steve Jobs case, not the natural treatment did not work, however, in some cancers it is ALL about diet and vitamins etc. People need to do their own research and take everything into consideration because the medical/pharmaceutical community does not have all the answers either. Yes, he is gone – but I completely support his choices and the right to make them.

    • CountryGirl says:

      Could you be so naive (dumb)? Do you really believe “in some cancers it is ALL about diet and vitamins etc.”?? And even more curious do you believe there is some guru out there who knows which diet or which vitamins will prevent/cure cancer??? Do you really believe that? Is Kool-aid part of your diet?

  64. Courtney says:

    ” In mid-2004, Jobs announced to his employees that he had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his pancreas.[105] The prognosis for pancreatic cancer is usually very poor; Jobs, however, stated that he had a rare, far less aggressive type known as islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.[105] Jobs resisted his doctors’ recommendations for evidence-based medical intervention for nine months[106], instead consuming a special alternative medicine diet to thwart the disease, before eventually undergoing a pancreaticoduodenectomy (or “Whipple procedure”) in July 2004 that appeared to successfully remove the tumor.[107][108] Jobs apparently did not require nor receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy.” (Taken from Wikipedia

    He did treat it medically, with supposed success. There is no way you can blame this on his brief 9 month trial with a naturopath, when for the past 7 years he has been treated medically. There are way to many factors and details I doubt you have access to to make this claim. Plus any medical professional knows that past history (social, medical, recreational, stress factors ect.) plays a factor in a persons long term health.

    • November says:

      In addition, this article says he could have had 10 years. He had 7! That’s a damn long time to live with pancreatic cancer.

      • tmac57 says:

        From what I have heard,10 years is the median survival rate for the type of cancer that he was reported to have had.So 7 years would not be on the higher side of the expected survival rate.

  65. tim says:

    Mr. Dunning is right on with this one. Sorry if the truth bothers some people.

  66. TMJ says:

    Wow, you’re an asshole. His body isn’t even cold yet and you trash him.

  67. Ed Graham says:

    Well stated. I think Steve Jobs would have approved.

    When will people understand that if any of this “alternative” medicine worked, it would become mainstream quickly? That being said, Steve Jobs changed our lives forever. Well done Steve.

  68. Ross Winn says:

    According to his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford he was originally given 3-6 months to live by his personal physician, who I would assume is a competent doctor. In the interim treatment he also had a liver transplant, so I am fairly sure his sole care was not alternative medicine. Really, why bring something like this up on the day after a man’s death? A man much of the world mourns? Have you no heart, no understanding, and coincidentally, no ability to research fully and present the entire story?

    There is no definition of skepticism that excludes empathy. You might consider learning some.

    • Joshua B. says:

      I am not addressing your pontifications, but just one particular factual claim.

      The 3-6 month figure is inaccurate. Mr. Jobs had islet cell carcinoma.

      See Yao et al, 2007:

      Relevant text from Standford speech: “About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months.”

      It sounds like the doctors said if you have pancreatic adenocarcinoma (which he didn’t), you have 3-6 months to live. As it turns out he had islet cell carcinoma, which accounts for 1.3% of all patients with pancreatic cancers. His physicians would have given him the more accurate estimate once this was discovered.

  69. jt says:

    It’s not like the quacks aren’t already claiming the opposite:

    • Matthew Loop says:

      Quacks… lol. You don’t even know the history of that word and, more importantly, “why” it originated, JT.

      Amazing how many are still asleep to the fact that modern healthcare is a business.

      • jt says:

        Why have you put “why” in quotes? Does it make it more magical? I know where the word Quack comes from, thank you, and the post I linked is a perfect example of it.

        Of course modern healthcare is a business, what do you expect it to be? Are you trying to differentiate it from modern quackery in some way? Is modern quackery not a business?

  70. Joshua B. says:

    I don’t usually turn off my CommentBlocker long enough to comment on a blog post, but I did in this case because I have to say, there has been really poor science reporting in the passing of Steve Jobs.

    Nearly every article I’ve read reports statistics about survival rates that are inaccurate when applied to Mr. Jobs, who had islet cell carcinoma.

    Here is actual data regarding islet cell carcinoma:

    Mr. Jobs was reported to have been diagnosed with localized islet cell carcinoma, the median survival rate of which 10.3 years, not the “only about 4% of patients can expect to survive five years after their diagnosis” reported, for instance, in Time Healthland.

    Also, while “pancreatic cancer is one of the faster spreading cancers” (again from Time) is true of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, islet cell carcinoma, which Mr. Jobs actually had, is “generally more indolent than pancreatic adenocarcinoma” (Yao et al, 2007).

    By comparison, Mr. Jobs survived about 7 years, which is below median, but not outside of 95% confidence interval for localized islet cell carcinoma. (Yao et al, 2007)

    That being said, what data we have are inconclusive about the hypothesis that Mr. Jobs’ use of alternative therapies for nine months affected the length of his survival, since the length of his survival is within the expected interval.

    Further, we don’t have access to more detailed information, such as the location of Mr. Jobs’ primary tumor, which is relevant because “location of the primary tumor may have a marked effect . . . on surgical morbidity and mortality.” (Yao et al, 2007)

    In particular, he did have a pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure), implying that the tumor was in the head of the pancreas. This leads to a very pointed question: Did the tumor originate in the head of the pancreas, or did it originate elsewhere? This is relevant because “primary tumor location in the pancreatic head was associated with a worse prognosis than the pancreatic body” despite decreased rates of metastasis. (Yao et al, 2007)

    If during that 9 month interval that alternative therapies were used, the tumor grew from elsewhere in the pancreas into the head of the pancreas, then that is the most pointed evidence consistent with the hypothesis that the alternative therapies shortened Mr. Jobs’ time of survival.

    I doubt that anyone will ever make public these data. Still, I am willing to give my provisional assent to the conjecture that the use of alternative therapies at least did not help his condition.

  71. Anne says:

    I’m sorry sir, but who informed you off all the medical information? Did Steve, his family and doctors call you on regular basis? I think your article is highly disrespectful to Steve and his family to assume they made wrong decisions in his treatment resulting in his death. How dare you. Cancer is one of the most difficult to treat and I’m sure Steve had top of the line advise from every angle. You have no right to judge his decisions, he was a genius and the day after his death you write an article insinuating he was stupid?? Let’s hope no such disease ever happens to you.

  72. Darryl Roy says:

    There’s no question that diet plays a role in cancer etiology, as well as in disease progression (we just learned 3 eggs a week increase prostate cancer lethality by 81%). So Job’s choice to augment conventional medicine with lifestyle changes was not unconsidered, and may well have yielded additional years. The NIH calls it complementary medicine for a reason.

    • CountryGirl says:

      Did we learn that or was the study flawed/biased? There was a study that concluded coffee caused kidney cancer. Now I believe there is a study that concludes coffee prevents cancer including kidney cancer. Where they right then or are they right now?

  73. Ron says:

    Good thoughtful post. Thank you. I’m sad and disappointed that Steve Jobs would pursue an unproven remedy first, rather than the rational science-based treatments. Maybe there’s more to the story than we know. Or maybe he was scared about the Whipple procedure and thought it was worth trying unproven non-surgical techniques instead.

  74. Chris says:

    Hi Brian

    Please could you list your references on this one. I dug through the comments and didn’t see them. I may have missed them if so sorry for not looking hard enough. I would be interested to see a refutation to all points, but one done by a qualified medical professional not a “big pharma” conspiracy nut job.

    I would like to see the rational conversation because there seems to be so much noise here. And how reliable is the source that he delayed therapy? Is it really this cut and dry? If it is that uncomplicated then this is even more tragic than is seems but if it is not then aren’t we as skeptics beholden to the truth, even if it makes the point harder to prove because the issue is not black and white. Is this cast in stone or is there wiggle room here? Or am I seeing a debate where there is none?

  75. Jenna says:

    By no means do you have the information necessary to make this claim. Each person has a right to make his or her own healthcare decisions; THEY are the one who will experience the consequences. It is insensitive and condescending to criticize an ill person’s choices. After their death, it is nothing less than cruel. And quite frankly, it is simply none of your business. Smug criticism of Steve Jobs treatment choices (from EITHER side of the healthcare debate) is opportunistic and tasteless. He was a very private person; it would be nice for you to respect that.

    • CountryGirl says:

      Yadda, yadda, yadda, I hate science based medicine, yadda, yadda, yadda…

    • November says:

      While I agree that it is likely no one has enough real information to support or disprove the claims in the article, I strongly disagree that it’s none of our business. You’re quite right, it’s up to every individual to decide what’s best for themselves. However, I think they should do so with a ton of information. People who are not ill tend to not think about such things. Once they get ill, their judgement is clouded, because the weight of their decisions is greatly increased. When people’s attentions are captivated by something as dramatic as the loss of a man who touched everyone’s life is a terrific time to provide food for (intelligent and rational) thought.

      • tmac57 says:

        You make a good point about how a person’s judgement can become clouded in such intense circumstances as a cancer diagnosis.That is something that most people do not understand,until it happens to them,or to a loved one.
        Many important decisions,some of which could involve life or death need to be made on too little information with too little time.

  76. Brian says:

    Although I’m a skeptic of alternative medicine myself, I’m not also convinced that our current traditional cancer treatments are the most efficient way to treat cancer. The problem with alternative medicine is that many of their claims are not usually backed by sound science while results of traditional medicine tend to be presented in a biased colored by the big medical industry business. Both sides have their truths, half-truths and lies – the reality is so mixed up with the woo. The challenge is how not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    • CountryGirl says:

      “The problem with alternative medicine is that many of their claims are not usually backed by sound science”!

      None of their claims are backed by sound science. There has never been an alternative health treatment that has been effective in treating any serious disease. They are not designed for that they are designed to empty your bank account.

  77. Kindred Spirit says:

    It seems as if Steve Jobs had 8 productive years with heightened quality of life compared to those I’ve seen accepting radiation and chemotherapy.

    I sure wish more attention were given by the cancer donation, dependent non-profits to support statistically relevant techniques i.e. those described in William Bengson’s book, Hands On Healing and outcome based awards for integrative medicine techniques that do not rely solely on allopathic silver bullet “cut it out” and/or “poison it” tactics.

    I admire Steve Jobs for handling his illness.

  78. Toni says:

    Hmmm….interesting reading all these comments and conversations. As a nurse that has seen thousands of patients die following “standard” cancer treatments that they began as soon as they were advised I do not have much hope that Steve would have done better the conventional way.It’s true that there are many alternative treatments that dont work but as an educated man he did research and made a choice. I have a personal friend that beat metastisized Ovarian cancer through a 100% raw food diet. She followed it for over a year at 100%..absolutely no cheating along with some self searching emotional therapies. She now has NO lung tumors and continues to follow the diet at 100%. It has been 2 years. I also have 2 other personal friends that tried it (not 100%) and died. This is a choice Steve made…perhaps we will find out more about exactly what he did and then we can have more understanding. As far as I am concerned I would try my hardest to stear clear of chemo and radiation….the statistics I have personally seen…among my patients and friends are just not good.

    • CountryGirl says:

      Raw food diet!!! And you are a nurse? Maybe you mean a CNA. You should be ashamed! Raw food diet! Give me a break…

  79. Ena says:

    Oh! I see! So: This man would have lived to be 100 years old with islet cell neuroendoctrine tumor if he had stuck with chemo and the usual nonsensical therapy?

    How stupid! Some people had better shut up.

  80. Steve says:

    Life expectancy for pancreatic cancer is five to eight months. Less then one percent make it five years. How is it that his seven to eight years minimum is not an endorsement of alternatives? I think Steve Jobs struck the right balance between both. No one lives forever no matter what type of health professional you use. I think he pulled more quality life for his last years because if his choices.

  81. Alejandro says:

    Western medicine is great if you’re in trouble and need radical procedures. But it sucks in terms of being preventive. Both Eastern/alternative, and Western have their pros and their cons. And both should be used at appropriate times with appropriate measures. One is no more nor less valid than another. Stop thinking in either/or, black/white terms. That’s not the way the world is, so stop thinking that way.

    • Val says:

      I truly wish there was the incredible amount of money available to back more of the alternatives in research. Wish we could all be sure testing results of the traditional treatments were not manipulated. If both could be honestly tested and reported so we could choose the best of both worlds and see which support the other in individual types of illnesses that would be so fantastic!
      We are far short of that sadly. Till then we each have to struggle through the maze to make our own decisions. Thank you Steve Jobs for all you have done in your life.

  82. In the last line of the second paragraph you write “diet had beed recommended”. It should say “been” instead of “beed”.

  83. One could assume his choice of alternative therapy shortened his life. One could also assume that the liver transplant shortened his life. Alternative medicine doesn’t kill directly. It is possible the hesitation of the more extreme measures caused a problem. Surgery and other orthodox treatments of cancer have killed directly. I will say knowing some one as intelligent, informed and financially stable as Steve Jobs opted for alt med reassures me that it is a good thing. I am a new blogger working hard to build an audience so if you have a moment check out my alternative medicine category at

  84. Mechano says:

    I saw many statistics on cancer…
    Who doesn’t care, or use alternative medicine has the same possibility to survive than who use common medicine.

    It means the cancer main causes are a lot different from what medicine knows, so cures have not been proven successful.
    Either who survive from a radio or chemio will need cures because of the side effects of this therapies.

    You don’t have the truth, like no naturopat or pharmaceutical company has!

    Also in Italy Dr. Tullio Simoncini who has been sued because he bielieves Candida is cause of many cancers, and uses Sodium Bicarbonate to reduce acid Ph in tissues and body, has not been able to save every person who came to him.

    I saw also psicologists study if there’re inconscious causes for this deasease…

  85. There is a lot of misinformation and anecdotes in the comments here. So just to clarify a few points.

    Jobs cancer was an endocrine pancreatic cancer, which has a mean survival of about 10 years. (It is the other more common type of pancreas cancer that has a survival measured in months).

    We do not know all the details of his treatment, because he kept them private, so almost any other statement needs to be qualified. Further, no one can know what would have happened had treatment choices been different (as Brian indicated).

    Assuming the 2008 Fortune article is accurate – then Jobs delayed surgery for 9 months. We don’t know the effect of this delay, but we can say that delaying surgery for this type of cancer is a potential risk. We would need more information to decide what exact role it played in Jobs prognosis.

    All the railing against chemotherapy and standard cancer treatment is pure quackery and propaganda. The current treatments are invasive with many side effects – but they also have mountains of rigorous scientific evidence behind them so at least we can inform patients in detail about risks and benefits.

    So-called alternative cancer treatments have one thing in common – they lack evidence of efficacy, and sometime even safety. Some of them also lack plausibility.

    I also reject the false equivalence that some commenters are pushing – there is no equivalence between science-based treatments and the fraud and wishful thinking that comprises most of alternative cancer treatments.

    • CountryGirl says:

      That’s what I’ve been trying to say. Thank you.

    • Lisa says:

      Since more details are needed, and no one knows for sure what his medical history and choices really were, it seems the title of this article is completely misleading if not flat out false. Also, this war cancer that was established in 1971 seems to be a complete and utter failure. We throw more money at the ACS for research (and it is the most “profitable” charitable organization in the entire world) yet we are no closer to finding a “cure” than we were 41 years ago. Chemotherapy and radiation are standard treatments that have been used for well over half a century.
      The current treatments have “mountains of rigorous scientific evidence” because they kill the cells of the entire body and also offer a poor quality of life considering the side effects involved! It’s like saying we have a proven method for killing warts, stick your entire arm in acid and walla!! Have we not come up with a method for treating cancer that doesn’t involve poisoning the entire body whilst doing so? If the scientific community were interested in preventing or curing cancer, I would think that this awful and downright barbaric form of treatment would be history.
      The fact remains, we live in a disease economy where prevention is unheard of and brainwashing us into purchasing “pink” merchandise makes us feel like we are helping, when in fact we just keep feeding the horse. Alternative medicine has a permanent place in our society and it’s becoming more and more obvious that the more you discard it, the more people will turn to it looking for answers, especially when they aren’t getting any from you.

  86. JustaGirl says:

    Wow…no mind/body connection in the treatment of illness. Who knew? Even the hard core science-based medicine community recognize the connection.

    As a cancer survivor (twice), the first time around, I elected for invasive surgery and a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy. The combination of the two almost killed me. When the cancer recurred, I opted for less aggressive treatment and used some alternative therapies (with my oncologist’s approval) as an adjunct. I’m still here to tell the tale and thus far, the cancer has not reappeared in over a decade. I do not quibble over which treatment had the better effect. I just consider myself lucky to be alive.

    I am always a little suspicious when people draw that line in the sand. There are risks and benefits associated with any prescribed treatment regimen for cancer and has been stated before, it is up to the individual how they approach it. Steve Jobs chose what he felt was best for him at the time during the course of his illness. And no one here can possibly claim beyond the shadow of a doubt that those choices either shortened or prolonged his life. We are not privy to his medical records, nor do we know exactly what type of islet cell cancer he had, whether the primary tumor was functional or non-functional, or where exactly it was located in the pancreas. Those factors make a huge difference in the rate of growth/metastasis and prognosis.

    And no, I am not a proponent of alternative therapies alone as a successful method to treat grave illnesses such as cancer, but there is no reason to bash one in favor of the other. Ideally, science-based medicine and alternative medicine should complement each other towards the same goal – the health and well-being of the patient who is making informed, unbiased choices in their care.

  87. Orac says:

    A far better discussion of the Steve Jobs case, if I do say so myself:

    Reposted background, when I originally wrote about it two years ago:

    Bottom line: Brian overstates his case.

  88. Orac says:

    As for Tullio Simoncini, he is a complete and utter quack:

    Just an FYI for all.

  89. zeddy says:

    My stepdad had his pancreas removed and it almost killed him. What didn’t kill him, has caused medical complications that has made his life miserable.

  90. Max says:

    Brian had this to say after the death of Jett Travolta.

    But this one was different, not because some segment of the population took a sort of morbid pleasure in the news, because that happens all the time with celebrity tragedies; but because a lot of my own friends were doing it. People who I thought were above that sort of thing. My Facebook page and my email inbox have been bulging with messages that could be compared to a victory dance. They took some form of “See? This is where Scientology gets you!”

    Now, as of this writing, we don’t have all the facts. Probably by the time you read this, more facts will be available, but what ultimately turns out to be the cause of Jett Travolta’s too-early death is not my point. My point is that without any knowledge of the facts, so many people have been quick to blame John Travolta and Kelly Preston for withholding life-saving medical treatment from Jett because of their Scientology beliefs.

    That is an outrageous and obscene charge to make against parents. We don’t know them personally. We don’t know anything about them. We have no reason to think they might do such a thing. We’ve heard in the tabloids that they’re Scientologists, and that’s not enough information to charge someone with killing their son.

  91. Matt says:

    On the basis of his choice of dietary changes to treat pancreatic cancer instead of surgery, I would like to nominate Steve Jobs for this years Darwin Award

    • SocraticGadfly says:

      It would actually be the iDarwin, though!

    • Max says:

      Now that’s gloating, and it’s possibly blaming the victim.
      Contrast that with this year’s Darwin award nominee who was electrocuted as he attempted to steal copper wire, ignoring DANGER OF DEATH signs.

  92. Opoetet says:

    When I read these posts it’s frightening to see how little some people know about the treatment of cancer. Chemotherapy can only cure specific kinds of Cancer (like hodgkins disease) but is often given as an adjecent therapy because there are clues it could increase survivalrates or prolong life. The claims made here that the ‘failure’ of chemotherapy’ makes a case pro alternative medicin is absolutely flawed.

    The most succesful weapon in the cure of most cancers is the surgeon’s knife. And one usualy should be operated on as soon as possible. If Jobs really dealyed this surgery in favor of woo it’s a very sad thing… And it should be a warning for all. Should people like Ornish be able to get away with this?

  93. Biopsy Required says:

    Have any of you ever had treatment at Stanford? From my first hand experience, it is a cesspool of over-rated, arrogant, spoiled, self-important medical snobs, whose complete lack of competence I unveiled within 5 minutes of discussion, not with one M.D. but with five in a row. Its recurring attraction to elitist patients in the bay area just goes to show how everyman stupidly rely’s on “reputation” when they actually know nothing about the facts. The quality of medicine at this so-called teaching medical school, “Stanford” would probably make Leland Stanford roll over in his grave. Don’t forget as well, that the WHO rated the United States medical care not even in the top 30 countries in the world. Fortunately Mr. Jobs went to Tennessee for his Whipple operation, although he might have been better off going to France or Japan.

    • SocraticGadfly says:

      Uhh, Jobs went to Tennessee because he was “gaming” the liver transplant system to some degree, in part. Another reason I loathe the cult of Steve that’s growing by the day.

  94. GeorgeRM says:

    Steve created your job…how? You don’t seriously believe that Steve Jobs created blogging or podcasting do you?

  95. careen says:

    Do you have his medical records? (Serious question…I don’t know if they’ve released exact information post-mortem). Do you know exactly how much it progressed during the 9-mos alternative therapy? Are you sure that’s the reason?

    He had the best doctors and was under observation the entire time. As I understand it, he had a delicate digestive system anyway and was always getting precautionary scans.

    He was declared cancer-free post-procedure and looked pretty good for several years. We still don’t know if the liver stopped functioning because of cancer or because of several other possibilities that can result from a Whipple.

    My point is I think you’re being a little too quick to point the ultimate and only finger at what just happens to be your pet peeve in a very complex situation with a sad result.

  96. Kate Devil says:

    The foolishness of this article and the ensuing discussion amazes me.

    In a bad way.

    Unless you have had Cancer yourself, gone through chemo, rads, and the needed multiple operations you have nothing to add to this diaglog. NOTHING. BTW….has the quaint old fashioned idea that this is none of your business ever entered your little techie minds? Is it a foreign concept to you that in reality you actually have no right to comment or even know SJ’s treatment choices? Has that fact entered your poor over-multi-tasked frontal lobes at ALL? One fine day you may well have to deal with this disease personally so let me give you some free advice, be very mindful with your high and mighty judgement on the right treatment path. Cancers are like fingerprints, no two are exactly the same. Even the same cell type will behave differently in different patients. My treatment was at one of the worlds best Cancer Centers and it consisted of much alternative treatments as well which are now being used more and more in house. Vitamins, Mindfulness Meditation, Acupuncture are ALL excellent adjuncts to Cancer treatments in this day and age.

    ~Been there myself and with both parents. I am the lucky one still alive.

    • Max says:

      Yeah, it is a foreign concept that people don’t have a right to comment on something unless they’ve been through something similar.

      A fool does not learn from his mistakes. A smart man does learn from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

    • Andrew says:

      The irony is strong with this one.

    • Justin says:

      “Vitamins, Mindfulness Meditation, Acupuncture are ALL excellent adjuncts to Cancer treatments in this day and age.”
      These may have a place in reducing suffering (even if it may be due to the placebo effect), but as you mentioned you were treated with modern medicine it’s more likely that this was what destroyed the cancer cells rather than acupuncture.
      I think it’s unfair to state that the author of this article has no right to offer his opinion because he hasn’t experienced what you’ve been through.
      You have my sympathy, but I think it might be worth re-reading your message to consider whether you may have been a little unreasonable.

  97. Susan says:

    No one walked in his shoes, he chose the treatment which he felt would work for him and he could have decided differently any time, so leave it alone.

  98. Mechano says:

    Why here there’s a completely different version?

    They say Jobs died because of chemio and radio therapy.

  99. Gah says:

    As always, somebody reading the press *thinks* he knows what happened.

  100. More pancreatic cancer research funds needed. Help out

  101. Voice says:

    Ok, our author has two options with this story if he wants to have any credibility:
    1) admit that he and his sources (if any) are violating HIPPA and publishing private medical information, or
    2) admit that he’s rampantly speculating about the course of treatment that Steve Jobs followed.

    • To my knowledge, none of these sources had access to Steve’s medical records, and I’m not aware of any case of anyone involved violating HIPAA laws (not HIPPA).

      The speculation is not as rampant as you might like to think. During his nine months of delaying surgery in favor of diet, many who knew him were quite frustrated and vocal about this, including mutual friends Steve & I shared. I’m curious to see how much, if any, of that will make it into his biography.

  102. Ed Dwulet says:

    Sorry. Don’t agree at all. Steve Job’s pancreatic cancer was found : “During a routine abdominal scan, doctors had discovered a tumor growing in his pancreas.” (ROUTINE SCAN – hardly alternative medicine …(who has “routine” scans anyway?) The tumor found was an insulinoma: “Although the most common type of pancreatic endocrine tumor, insulimonas are extremely rare. The most famous American diagnosed in the last several years with an insulinoma is Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer.” Insulinoma’s are usually benign: “Insulinoma: Facts.” “Less than 10% are malignant. ” “The incidence in general population is 1-4 per 1,000,000 yearly but the incidence is higher in autopsy studies.” So his tumor was rare, usually benign and since the incidence is higher at autopsy many people live and die never knowing they had it. “That night, after a biopsy, the doctors realized it was a very rare form of pancreatic cancer…” He eventually had “cut it out” surgery. Liver metastasis. A liver transplant. And now he’s gone. It all started with “a routine abdominal scan” and a BIOPSY. I contend that there’s a good chance he might be alive today IF HE HAD NEVER KNOWN.

    Clarification for those that need it. Of course this is a circumstantial case pieced together from news reports. Jobs had no symptoms. Insulinomas have symptoms when they are big enough to cause them — its hypoglycemia. Jobs got a “routine” or maybe a full body scan which was popular at the time or whatever it is billionaires do to try to “catch cancer early” and live forever. Who knows? If he had not had the scan, maybe the insulinoma becomes big enough to cause hypoglycemia or maybe it doesn’t (its found more often in autopsies than clinically — (as high as 10%!)). Jobs is no idiot. He was told he had a benign tumor. No one in their right mind is going to wait on a malignant pancreatic tumor. Either the pathologist made a big mistake (unlikely) or it was the BIOPSY itself. IF it wasn’t just “routine” and he went for a scan WITH SYMPTOMS — the situation changes. Any half way decent doctor can put two and two together and tell you you have an insulinoma (NO BIOPSY REQUIRED) and he can send you right to the OR to get cured. When they FIRST find something on Jobs scan everyone assumes he has the more common dangerous form (which also has no symptoms in the early stages) like Swayze or Michael Landon. He says he thought he had only months to live. So then they tell him they need to do a BIOPSY to be sure because there are other things it may be although the chances of that weren’t good. Afterwards he says he cried after the doctors told him it was the very rare “curable” form. He didn’t rush into any surgery — they most likely told him it was benign, like 90% of them are. But meanwhile the BIOPSY was doing its dirty work — inflaming the tumor or already seeding metastasis. By the time he had surgery it was too late. BIOPSY induced micrometastasis had already begun or possibly surgery on an inflamed insulinoma is more dangerous than one that isn’t and the surgery itself caused the metastasis. Circumstantial for sure but no doubt men have been sent to jail on lesser circumstantial evidence. With full access to his medical records I think someone would have little trouble getting an involuntary manslaughter conviction in the death of Steve Jobs. Jobs might have lived a long life and never had a single symptom. He was forced “all in” by that “routine scan” — after that he had no real choice but to keep playing and hope to catch that hole card and get out of the game alive. Instead a “routine” scan began a long medical cascade that ended tragically. Apparently sometimes you can catch cancer too early. Obama’s comments on his passing notwithstanding, I think its more horribly ironic as well as pathetically sad that one of the greatest visionaries of modern technology was himself probably done in by modern technology.

  103. BigAppleFanBoy says:

    As I understand it, Steve was a vegetarian for 30 some years, maybe a fruitarian or pescatarian at various times, so eating veggie lunch with Ornish is not “alternative medicine”.

    What exactly was the alternative medicine?

  104. mdnyc says:

    Susbribe to FDA recall alerts. And when you get the numerous amounts of recalled medications that are “so called approved and safe by the FDA” you would second guess the pill popping/chemo method as well.

    When your a millionaire/billionaire, like Steve Jobs, you have access to the VERY BEST medical care WORLDWIDE. Take note that he OPTED FOR ALTERNATIVE medication. So you sort of look like an imbecile dissing his medical decisions. Most people as naive as you do as your told and follow along like robots instead of researching ways to improve your life/situation.

    • Max says:

      I subscribe to FDA recall alerts. They usually deal with manufacturing and packaging problems like contamination and expiration, as well as undeclared ingredients in dietary supplements that are not FDA approved. I rarely see something like the Vioxx recall.

      Michael Jackson could’ve had the best medical care too, but instead he had an incompetent doctor. Rich people don’t always make the best decisions.

  105. Henry Zhu says:

    I’ve written a bit about this at

    If the big problem is people blindly (because we believe they are stupid, irrational, misinformed, etc) trying the alternatives, I think we need to think about why they turn to these methods and the methods themselves. Not every idea that isn’t in the generic medicine/pill/surgery category shouldn’t be automatically assumed to not work. If more extensive research and testing was done maybe everyone can learn more. For the people with bad intentions trying to make money etc, they won’t want to test or figure out how they could test their treatment. For everyone else, why wouldn’t they want that help? If you could do more research into the effectiveness of these alternatives then if they don’t work less people would be trying them in the first place. If there is evidence of positive effects then we should definitely be looking into studying more about it. Aren’t we all just trying to learn here? I know this sounds naive in that people’s lives are a risk, lots of money and time is wasted figuring out what works, and its more comfortable to stay with the old system because that has what worked in the past. However, everything we have learned is subject to change. There are so many examples of this: thinking that the earth was flat, that the planets revolved around the earth, and now people finding evidence for particles that can travel faster than light. Maybe we just suspend the disbelief and move forward in testing what could be hope. Thanks.

  106. JD says:

    Where’s the evidence (let alone data)? The fact is articles like these are nothing more than speculative nonsense. None of us know precisely when Jobs was diagnosed and none of us know precisely when he started each treatment (or if the treatments were occurring concurrently at any time), which precludes any so-called skeptical analysis. Most importantly, none of us know if the 9 months of alternative therapy had any effect on his survival rate. Based on publicly available dates, Jobs was diagnosed sometime in mid-2004. He died in late 2011. That is at least 7 years of survival. The median survival rate for the type of cancer Jobs had is 10 years. Based on this (and the absence of other evidence), it is EQUALLY LIKELY that the use of alternative medicine had SOME or NO effect. That is, for a median to be calculated, there must be values below and above the median number. Jobs may have survived for 7 years because of same (or other) idiosyncratic reason that other individuals survive for less than 10 years (i.e., he fell into a necessary statistical category for a median to exist, and thus, the alternative therapy had NO effect) or because the alternative therapy reduced his survival time. Again, none of us has any way of determining this based on the available evidence.

    If we want to educate the public about the importance of empirical, evidence-based (and data-driven) decisions, we need to use evidence and data to support our conclusions (which this article does not do). Otherwise, we are simply making personal-values based arguments while attempting to hide under the title-du-jour (in this case, skeptic).

  107. jeux rami says:

    rip steve jobs you’ll miss us

  108. Dr. K says:

    This post, like all the other posts blaming or attempting to slander one form of medicine or another, is just tasteless, ugly, and absurd. Using this horrible loss to promote an anti-natural medicine agenda, shame on you. Nobody knows enough of the details, and yours is just idle speculation aimed at fulfilling your assumptions so you can be right. And, not surprisingly, in this polarized and divided nation, people have jumped to the opposite conclusion too, that conventional medicine is what killed him.

    Steve Jobs was a clear thinker, he did what he thought best, and as the luck of the draw would have it, he eventually died. But it was Cancer that killed him. Skeptics of natural medicine conveniently look for proof of their pet theories. And skeptics of conventional medicine do the same. Meanwhile, none of this involves science (which challenges pet theories), and none of it serves anyone’s best interests, only the narrow interests of writers looking to grind their axe on their favorite bogey man.

    RIP Steve Jobs. And may his family find comfort in the memory of this incredible guy.

  109. spookiewon says:

    I have cancer myself, though not pancreatic cancer, and I am treating it using conventional methods. I run into people on various message boards and forums almost daily who spout nonsense about scientists and doctors misleading cancer patients and how it’s the cure killing people and not the cancer. I’ve even seen several people espouse the idea that cancer is self-limiting. I see at least one link per day to the trailer for “Cut Poison Burn.” You see ti here as well. The fact is, not all cancers need aggressive treatment, and modern medicine knows this. But some cancers, like pancreatic cancers, need aggressive treatment or they’ll kill you.

  110. Bill in NC says:

    Are we really sure the initial tumor was caught “early”?

    For a yet as undetermined period of time before the tumor was found, Jobs had had intestinal issues significant enough to warrant multiple abdominal scans.

  111. Kathy says:

    Jobs was evidently a long-time fan since maybe high school of the late Paul Bragg, the alternative health guru. There is, or recently was, a tribute to SJ at the website by Paul’s “daughter” Patricia, CEO of Bragg Live Foods, which includes two photos of Steve & Patricia together, identified by her as taken at Steve’s Palo Alto home in 2003. There are several pumpkins in the photo background, allegedly from Steve’s “organic garden”, which would lead me to think they were taken in October or November of that year. She also says that Jobs asked her during their two-hour visit if she had ever faced death herself, which, if true, aso leads me to think that at that point he wasn’t just making idle conversation. This would tie into reports that his original cancer diagnosis came in October of 2003…rather than sometime in 2004.

    And since probably the best-selling Bragg book was & still is “The Miracle of Fasting”, wherein by not taking in food, supposedly one’s body rests & heals itself, I have to wonder if perhaps Jobs started out with not a special diet, but rather a fasting regimen. That seems to be a VERY popular protocol amongst Bragg followers, of which Jobs evidently was one.

  112. Elliot says:

    We don’t know what happened – plain and simple. For those who want to blame alternative, more natural therapies as the culprit – I have a reply:

    Medicine today is so disgustingly irresponsible, it allows money-driven pharmaceutical, food and insurance companies to hide many the possible diagnoses and truly effective natural treatments that COULD help people – in favor of pills to treat symptoms.

    Today’s doctors in the USA are too afraid to try alternative things that might help for fear of getting laughed at by their peers or the insurance companies they are paid by or the pharmaceutical companies. It is basically the insurance companies who pay the salaries of the doctors – if they try to treat with things insurance won’t support, they get labeled as quacks and the treatment never gets the correct exposure and we do not get to see what the natural treatments are CAPABLE of. Furthermore, the insurance companies are basically left with no choice but to use the flawed pharmaceutical studies that incorrectly prove or disprove natural explanations or treatments.

    Pharmaceutical companies doctor or hide results that prove the effectiveness of natural cures and preventative strategies so they can continue to make money on their drugs, which do little more than control symptoms in most cases, allowing the disease or underlying cause to never get diagnosed correctly or treated properly.

    We live, in North America, longer than ever before – but we are BY FAR the sickest, most unhealthy humans to ever exist. This is because the medical industry is too scared to fight for the ban of toxic chemicals used in daily life in food, cleaning products, construction materials and even clothing. We are constantly bombarded with toxins from our environment that CAUSE the illnesses.

    If this knowledge were properly used to prevent illness, the pharmaceutical companies would not make as much money treating the symptoms for many conditions that could have been prevented – and that could have often been completely cured through simple methods that remove the toxins from our bodies. Unfortunately, once cancer has begun, it is often too late to practice the avoidance strategy and different methods must be adopted. Cancer has no cure – it must be AVOIDED. Once the damage is done, at LEAST some of that damage is permanent.

    The writer of this article is being fooled by the pharmaceutical, corporate and medical industries’ into believing they are right. Why, then, are humans getting sicker and sicker every decade, especially in the past 100 years?

    Toxins from mold, Lyme disease, pesticides, GMO’s and heavy metal toxicity – these are all HUGELY important in explaining many of the sources of the toxins we are subjected to. Not only does medical science neglect to acknowledge them, despite adequate evidence to support their impact on human health – but doctors get paid for the specific activity they performed, rather than the actual effort that was put out and the time that was spent. As a result, doctors simply do not take the time to make a proper diagnosis or to keep up to date on the new research and studies that point to POSSIBLE explanations for many illnesses. They usually make a guess and prescribe medications or antibiotics – often making their patients worse. Doctor treatment is now readily recognized statistically as the 3rd largest killer in the USA.

    The medical establishment simply cannot be trusted. Big money from insurance and pharmaceutical companies somehow manages to use legal actions to sway opinions to their side – but the ones who suffer, don’t have the money to fight them in those legal battles. The doctors will be criticized for not doing what the insurance companies EXPECT, often based on studies the pharmaceutical companies came up with to prove their ideas or try to disprove things that would cause them to lose money.

    THEN, the government applies pressure to support dairy, wheat and other food industries in their toxic food production, often using dangerous ingredients. The government penalized farmers who don’t use Monsanto seeds, as Monsanto puts dangerous foods like GMO’s on the market that cause illness and put MORE toxins in our bodies… the evidence exists, but is ignored or not acted on.

    So, if the author of this article thinks he has done the public a service with this article – think again! He has SPECULATED that the natural treatments were to blame – how does he know this? Can he PROVE this? Of course not – it is purely speculation! He is the one – and others like him – that are truly to blame, since he supports the insurance, pharmaceuticals, doctors and scientists who are the REAL culprits.

  113. stef says:

    well since the success rate that is, a patient living upto 5 years under conventional treatments, is 2% I’d hardly say conventional treatments of poisoning , burning and cutting are very ‘successful’ !

    But the press are quick to use a famous celebrity as a way to ‘rubbish’ alternatives despite the fact that if Steve Jobs did take conventional medicines, he’d have died within a few years…
    His health diet kept him going but the word alternatives can encompass anything from one extreme to another.

    If he tried B17 with enzyme therapy or Essiac tea, or Gerson, or other treatments which are evidenced to work and highly successful, then he’d still be alive…

    Incidentally Dr.John Beard the esteemed embryologist first discovered as a cure for pancreatic cancer around 150 years ago !. Diet is very important, and detoxing the poisons in oneself. Its a fact every tumor cell contains candida albicans and mercury ! This is documented.

    Dr. Burzynski has has been battling the medical boards for decades to allow him to practice his cure !

    This is science… its not alternative, but alternative to the rubbish we currently have.

    I will give you a thought, none of my friends and people I know have survived cancer and all used conventional treatments and some had very treatable cancers and did go to their doctors early on. The chemo killed one friend who reacted badly to it when they changed the type used. But the only person I know who refused medical treatment for breast cancer but underwent alternatives, is still alive and the only survivor of the group of women in her help group she frequented at the hospital.

    One woman we know actually got stomach cancer from taking a ‘preventative’ medicine because she feared she could get breast cancer because her mum died of it… the drug was Tamoxifen !!! She died of stomach cancer caused by it.

    I am sad Steve Jobs didn’t dig deeper and spend time on himself rather than stupid iphones and his dispute with Android… If anyone has an open mind, please check these videos, and spread some truth…

    “Cancer – The Forbidden Cures [2010]

    Burzynski The Movie – Cancer Is Serious Business [2011]

    • Ausmith1 says:

      Everything in stef’s comment above is pure and utter quackery.
      There is no such thing as Vitamin B17, that’s a hoax. The substance sold by quacks as Vitamin B17 is simply apricot or plum seeds and is in fact metabolized by the human body into a deadly poison, so deadly that the Nazi’s used the same substance (Hydrogen Cyanide) to kill the Jews in Auschwitz/Birkenau.

  114. Max says:

    A preview of Jobs’ biography

    “In his last years, Steven P. Jobs veered from exotic diets to cutting-edge treatments as he fought the cancer that ultimately took his life, according to a new biography to be published on Monday. His early decision to put off surgery and rely instead on fruit juices, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments — some of which he found on the Internet — infuriated and distressed his family, friends and physicians, the book says…
    When he did take the path of surgery and science, Mr. Jobs did so with passion and curiosity, sparing no expense, pushing the frontiers of new treatments…
    According to Mr. Isaacson, Mr. Jobs was one of 20 people in the world to have all the genes of his cancer tumor and his normal DNA sequenced.”

  115. stewgreen says:

    Well done author Walter Isaacson, by publicising that early science based medicine is effective he will save a lot of lives of people who would have otherwise have relied on woo woo until too late.

  116. whitewash says:

    Sorry guys you leave out that Steve was still having conventional treatment, flying to Switzerland, a bloody liver transplant, jumping the queue and complications, to try and present this as ‘CAM killed Steve’ is untrue and fairly desperate.

    There are plenty of good people who have done proper alternatives and are still alive, this blog is not educating anyone, but that is what the septic movement has come to represent.

    • Cancer killed him, not SCAM or the surgeries or anything else. However, it’s a fact that he would almost certainly have lived longer had he not delayed the surgery by 9 months to try SCAM. Don’t believe me, listen to the regret he expressed himself in the biography. His family and friends spent months pleading with him to treat the cancer properly, but he stubbornly trusted in the diet, to his ultimate detriment.

  117. Frederic says:

    I’m a big fan but I must say your post contains some errors. Read the biography “Steve Jobs” and you’ll discover that Dean Ornish told Steve Jobs he had to get the surgery, but Jobs refused as he was exploring other avenues and actually simply trying to eliminate the problem through magical thinking, something he was prone to do.

    It seems that the most logical explanation is that Ornish wanted Jobs to get the surgery AND change his diet. From reading the book I didn’t get the impression that Ornish wanted Jobs to treat his cancer through diet alone.

    It’s clear that Jobs had an eating disorder and his diet was all over the place. However this doesn’t discredit the value of low-fat, plant-based diets such as promoted by many medical doctors: (C. Esselstyn, John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman, and others).

    Jobs shouldn’t have thought that diet alone could have saved him. But he was an artist and didn’t always think rationally.

    I am a hard-core skeptic but find that too many skeptics discredit anything that can remotely resembles “alternative” nutrition, even though changing your diet to a largely low-fat, plant-based diet is something perfectly rational that can be of great value in both preventing disease and in certain cases overcoming illness (when those illnesses are caused by the wrong diet).

    One should not get the impression that Jobs’ “vegan” diet was a true example of what a healthy plant-based diet is. He constantly ate smoothies and drank fruit juices, which are full of sugar, and frequently experimented with extreme diets. Unfortunately many people will see that as an example of “not eating meat” being bad for you.

  118. alternative cures says:

    Our nation is drowning in an ocean of mis-information about health, wellness and nutrition. It is our responsibility to take charge of our health no one else can do it for us, though to take charge of your health may require rising up and “breaking through” the “barriers” imposed on us.

  119. Chad says:

    I didn’t read all the comments, but read the post and a few comments at the top.

    First, I am disgusted by the original post, that one can comment on the validity of one’s personal health decision. It’s simply bad (even terrible) taste. Wow…. You can try put yourself in his shoes, but guess what, that simply doesn’t matter. It’s a personal decision, and leave it at that.

    And in response to those debating the effectiveness of medical treatments, or the effectiveness of eating healthy has on your health. It’s in the eye of the beholder isn’t it? (hear me out) Much like the decision to buy a BMW vs a Toyota. If you enjoy your journey more in a BMW then enjoy it the way you want. So, if your experience is better choosing one treatment vs the other, then choose your method. It’s your right.

    I, much like many others, have seen loved ones fight cancers. Many of those fights end the wrong way, some sooner than others. Ultimately, it’s *not* so much about the end then is it? As we all die, and many cancer fighters die far too early.

    I say, enjoy your journey, as it’s not the destination that matters. So if you can enjoy your life more with less (or no) chemo, and instead choose an alternate medicine that may or may not be proven as effective, then it’s beauty in the eye of the beholder… isn’t it?

  120. Ed Dwulet says:

    Job’s insulinoma was detected by a random “routine” CT scan for kidney stones. A shadow on his pancreas. At first he thought he had the rare deadly form of pancreatic cancer. A biopsy determined that it was an insulinoma. He is quoted as saying the doctors cried with joy. A one in a million rarity … curable and rarely malignant. And a tumor more commonly found on autopsy — up to 10% — so many people have them — live with them and die with them — and never exhibit symptoms. 90% to 95% of insulinomas are benign and evidence of metastasis is the only way to diagnosis those 5 to 10% that are malignant.

    Jobs had no symptoms and no evidence of metastasis. What would you do when presented with that information? Run to the OR and have half your pancreas removed? The symptoms, when they occur … are hypoglycemia — related to the overproduction of insulin — similar to conditions experienced by diabetics.

    With no symptoms its reasonable and understandable for him to just assume that he might be among the 90 – 95% with a benign tumor — and seek dietary means to prevent or prolong the time to symptoms ever occurring … and just wait.

    Something dramatic had to happen in those 9 months — to go from being asymptomatic to suddenly requiring surgery. The thing that may have happened was the biopsy — turning a benign situation deadly. Biopsy caused inflammation is becoming recognized as a bad actor in cancer progression. Read this:
    and this (biopsies are not necessary to diagnose insulinomas when symptoms are present) :

    What are the odds that a random routine scan finds a 1 in 10,000,000 tumor at just the right moment and waiting 9 months has some kind of effect on the outcome? Astronomical! Its total bullshit that Jobs delay in treatment affected anything. He was just unlucky to have that scan — he may have had a malignant tumor from the get go … BUT it is possible he just may have lived a long life without ever knowing.

  121. Needalift says:

    The problem began in his youth. Should the lifestyle he needed been promoted by those raising him we would not be discussing his demise today. Just wait until our current batch of Mc D’s kids age a bit. They are expected to die before their parents because of parental neglect in nutrition. They already have brought on a huge health care burden of adult type 2 diabetes. Our future is dying before our eyes. Only good parenting will save us.

  122. James D. says:

    He obviously had the money and the means to undergo any treatment on this planet. He chose what he chose because it was the best option. If he didn’t choose chemo it’s because he knows better than to choose that route first. If he did choose alternative medicine he would have also done this through a well thought out process. There are many, many people alive today because of the Alternative treatments they received, that is an undeniable fact! Certainly there are quacks in alternative medicine, but the whole idea of chemo as a treatment for cancer will one day be seen for the quackery that it is.

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