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How Effective Is Colloidal Silver for Cancer?

By Suzanne S. Wiley
Updated May 17, 2024
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Colloidal silver is a mixture of silver nitrate, water and other ingredients like gelatin that some alternative health proponents tout as a treatment for many conditions including cancer. An alternative term is “Colloidal Silver Preparation” (CSP). The preparations are available commercially, or individuals may try to make their own at home using special kits. While silver does have modern medical uses, colloidal silver has not been proven effective for preventing or treating cancer.

Silver itself has antimicrobial properties, and in the past, people in different cultures would put silver utensils or coins in water supplies and eat food off of silver plates, thinking the silver would kill whatever harmful germs might be in the food or liquid. Medical uses included silver eye and nose drops, and silver-laced dressings for injuries, though as of 2011, no record of using colloidal silver for cancer exists. The introduction of antibiotics led to a sharp decrease in medical silver use, although it still has a role in water purification and burn care.

No evidence exists that colloidal silver stops cancer from forming or spreading, however. In vitro study results showing any effect on cancerous cells are rare, and even then the conclusion has been that there may possibly be an effect that needs more study. These results apply only to cells in a lab, and they do not indicate that colloidal silver would have any effect in humans. No cancer centers or government health departments and ministries have advocated taking colloidal silver for cancer.

A risk of taking colloidal silver for cancer or any other condition is argyria, a permanent skin discoloration resulting from silver particles that remain in the body. The silver turns the skin and sometimes the mucous membranes and eyes dark grayish-blue. Some people who have taken large amounts of colloidal silver internally have developed argyria all over their bodies, and the use of more conventional topical silver creams has resulted in pigmentation as well. It is not known how either colloidal silver use or argyria might affect a patient’s response to mainstream cancer treatments, though the condition could add emotional stress that may make the patient feel worse overall.

The lack of control and regulation over colloidal silver products means not every supplement may contain the same ingredients. There is also a risk that the company making a supplement might not be honest about what is really in the preparation. This could lead to a cancer patient, who may already have a weakened immune system, taking unknown ingredients with harmful side effects. Those who still think that taking colloidal silver for cancer is an acceptable treatment should consult with the cancer specialists they are seeing before taking anything.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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