Did Alternative Medicine Extend or Abbreviate Steve Jobs’s Life?

By Dr. Matthew Watson

Exact details of the alternative natural and traditional therapies tried by Steve Jobs before he underwent surgery in 2004 and eventually died of pancreatic cancer earlier this month have not been disclosed. (A representative from Apple declined to comment on any aspect of the Apple co-founder's illness.) He reportedly restricted his diet to just fruits or just fruits and vegetables, tried out something called hydrotherapy and consulted psychics. In any case, a mounting body of scientific and anecdotal reports provides compelling evidence about the potential impact, both positive and negative, of so-called complementary practices on the health and longevity of cancer patients following their diagnosis. And, although Jobs's unconventional early-treatment choices may not have done much to stave off the spread of deadly cancer cells in his case, they provide an opportunity to discuss what makes cancer grow and how to stop it.

Jobs had a rare form of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (pNET). Accounting for about 1 percent of all pancreatic cancers, pNET is a cancer of the endocrine cells, known clinically as the islets of Langerhans, which exist in small clusters throughout the pancreas. These cells produce hormones such as insulin, which lowers blood sugar, and glucagon, which increases it.


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