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Research Update – Acupuncture and Melanoma

A study conducted by the Department of Medicine at the University of California has shown the use of acupuncture can help stimulate the immune system by activating natural cancer killer cells. The study compiled evidence from multiple prior studies that investigated the impact of acupuncture on natural killer cells. The hypothesis is acupuncture enhances the cytokines within the natural killer cells. This, along with the anti-cancer cytotoxic activity, is increased by the use of acupuncture, which decreases the proliferation of cancer cells in the body. Multiple experiments were performed on animals to come to the following conclusion: The study demonstrates acupuncture treatments can enhance the ability of the immune system to eliminate malignant cancer cells by pumping up the natural killer cells in the body.

Melanoma is defined as a tumor of melanin-forming cells or skin cancer. Melanoma tends to be malignant once it is discovered, and as with any form of cancer, the treatment can be almost as bad, if not worse, than the disease itself. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to the skin cells, usually caused by ultraviolet light, causes mutations that then develop into rapidly multiplying tumors. These tumors originate in the melanocytes, which produce the pigment of the skin and many times, melanomas can resemble moles. This is why so many people aren’t overly concerned with them until it’s too late.

The statistics regarding melanoma are quite frightening. It is estimated 87,000 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in just the United States this year. Nearly 10,000 people die from melanoma annually in the U.S. Most melanomas are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. Melanomas can be any color, but most frequently they are black or brown. Those people who have a genetic predisposal to skin cancer need to be extra careful when spending time in the sun.

Every person on the planet has cancer cells in their body. Those cancer cells only proliferate or duplicate when there is the perfect storm of conditions in the body, such as decreased immunity, prolonged stress and anxiety and improper dietary habits. When the body is balanced, the immune system attacks and destroys renegade cancer cells before they can become malignant. But an unbalanced immune system, will often fail to defend the body from the cancer cells.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, and specifically, acupuncture, has shown great promise in helping melanoma patients deal with the many symptoms they encounter. One of the most important ways regular acupuncture treatments can help melanoma patients, is by boosting the immune system. The acupuncture needles are homeopathic in nature, but when they puncture the skin, the needles are perceived as an enemy by the body. This causes the body to send an immune-mediated response to the area, which, in effect, retrains the body’s immune system to attack the intruders. The needles can be placed near or around the area of the tumor, which allows the defensive action of the immune system to be channeled to the cancer site itself.

Acupuncture can also be very effective at treating the other common symptoms of melanoma. Symptoms like fatigue, depression and anxiety, can be managed with multiple acupuncture treatments that balance hormones in the body. When these are decreased, the immune system and the overall body will become stronger.

As with any form of cancer, having the proper diagnosis and treatments are essential. But adding complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, can increase the probability of success at defeating the disease.


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