Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound that’s used for many purposes, from whitening teeth to cleaning small cuts and scrapes. Some people claim it can even cure cancer.
The claim is based on a theory that low oxygen levels can cause cancer. Hydrogen peroxide is an oxygenating compound, meaning it’s a chemical that contains oxygen. Proponents of using hydrogen peroxide to treat cancer claim that it kills cancer cells by flooding them with oxygen.
This type of treatment is also called:
- hyperoxygenation therapy
- bio-oxidative therapy
- oxidative therapy
Keep reading to learn more about the science behind using hydrogen peroxide as a cancer treatment and whether it actually works.
In 1931, Otto Heinrich Warburg won a Nobel Prize for discovering that cancer cells use a process called glycolysis to produce energy. By contrast, noncancerous cells typically use a process called oxidative phosphorylation to produce energy. Sometimes noncancerous cells use glycolysis like cancer cells do, but only when there isn’t enough oxygen.
This phenomenon of cancer cells surviving without oxygen is called the Warburg effect.
Researchers spent the next several decades trying to figure out how cancer cells survive without oxygen. Some developed a hypothesis that low oxygen levels actually cause cancer.
This led to a belief that oxygenating compounds, including hydrogen peroxide, could kill cancer cells by flooding them with more oxygen than they could handle.
Based on this research, some people claim that drinking or injecting a solution containing a 35 percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide cures cancer.Studies looking at the link between cancer cells and oxygen started in the 1950s. In one study, rats with cancerous tumors drank a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. Between 50 and 60 percent of the rats were tumor-free within 60 days.
A 1981 animal study found that delivering hydrogen peroxide directly to tumors through microscopic beads avoided the side effects found in other studies and did seem to have some anticancer effects.