© Nautilus Productions
23 February 2017
SAND TIGER SHARKS:
The Truth About The Shark Cartilage Scam
If you use shark cartilage or shark liver oil you are wasting your money, endangering your health,
and contributing to the wholesale slaughter of helpless animals. You have fallen victim to what can only be described as an
unconscionable scam and fraud that preys on cancer victims and their families.
Read more in Scientific American - Mythbusting 101: Sharks will cure cancer
June 29, 2000 - The Federal Trade Commission ordered two companies to cease selling shark cartilage as a cure for cancer,
and fined Lane Labs-USA, Inc. one million dollars for false advertising in connection with shark cartilage sales. Click here to read the story.
Contemporary Snake Oil
The scam began when, some years ago, marine biologists made the discovery that some species of sharks seemed to have unusually low rates of cancer. With questionable logic and using the unsubstantiated claims of a few publicity-seeking " researchers, " it was then suggested that shark cartilage can cure cancer in humans. Some shark cartilage, it is said, contains a protein that may act as an anti-angiogenesis agent,
inhibiting the growth of new capillaries that a cancer tumor needs to grow. Self-proclaimed "researchers" operating overseas and without any oversight or peer review mechanism declared that eating shark cartilage can cure cancer, and immediately wrote books and established companies selling... shark cartilage.
But studies conducted since the early 1970s by such institutions
as Harvard have failed to show a shred of evidence that suggests that consumption
of shark cartilage by humans will cure cancer. On the contrary, it has been
demonstrated that any beneficial anti-angiogenesis proteins in shark cartilage
are destroyed in the human stomach by digestive acids, and therefore cannot be
absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive system anyway. Even if
it did have any effect, a person would have to eat pounds of it a day due to
the minuscule amounts of anti-angiogenesis proteins present in the cartilage.
On top of it all is the fact that shark cartilage also contains an angiogenesis
stimulant which encourages the growth of blood vessels and would counter any
positive effect with a negative one. While it hasnt been demonstrated yet,
its even possible that shark cartilage is dangerous due to this
angiogenesis stimulator. In a 1997 clinical trial sponsored by the Cancer
Treatment Research Foundation, Cancer Treatment Centers of America,
and Cartilage Technologies (a shark cartilage manufacturer), the shark
cartilage was found to be completely ineffective against cancer.
The cartilage therapy caused no positive effects, but DID cause nausea and vomiting in many of the patients. A 1998 study by the Independent Cancer Treatment Research Foundation and published in the Journal of Oncology concluded that "shark cartilage powder has no effect on slowing the cancer, improving the quality of the participants' lives, or shrinking the tumors."
In those experiments that have shown that shark cartilage reduces tumor
size (in lab animals), the cartilage has been surgically implanted into the
tumor, and the reduction in tumor size is only temporary. For any anti-angiogenesis agent to work,
it would have to be surgically implanted or
administered intravenously, not ingested orally. The agent would have to reach the
tumor through the bloodstream to have any effect.
Lies for Money
The Mote Marine Institutes Dr. Carl Luer is perhaps the one man most
often misquoted and misrepresented as supporting shark cartilage as a cure for cancer.
Dr. Luers research in the early 1970s led to the discovery that
sharks are resistant to cancer, prompting I. William Lane's book "Sharks
Dont Get Cancer, " the book that started the entire shark
cartilage debacle (in fact, sharks do get cancer, including cancer of the cartilage). Dr. Luers past research is commonly used as the
foundation for the shark cartilage manufacturer's claims that cartilage can
cure cancer. Dr. Luer, however, has publicly disputed that claim and stated that
shark cartilage does not and can not cure cancer. Dr. Luer directly disputes the
claims of the cartilage distributors with his own web page on the subject at the
Mote Marine Institute's
In their blind greed for money, money, and more money,
however, so-called "homeopathic" and "health food"
manufacturers and distributors are not only ignoring the real evidence,
but practicing deceptive marketing; misquoting scientists, misrepresenting
the results of scientific study, misinforming consumers, preying on and
giving terminal cancer patients false hope, (and taking their money),
by pushing the product as a cure for cancer in humans. Even K-Mart proudly
advertised, "We now have shark cartilage!"
Some companies, in an apparent effort to broaden the market,
are also touting shark cartilage crème and pills as a cure for arthritis,
carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and even acne, and more than one distributor
has hinted that it might be effective against AIDS! The evidence for these
claims is far less than substantial... These assertions are, simply, utterly
Claims of the Shark Cartilage Peddlers
As an example of the slipperiness of those distributing shark cartilage,
International Health Technologies, who boast that they ONLY exist on the
Internet, finishes their spiel on the benefits of shark cartilage with a
disclaimer apparently designed to shield them from litigation or false
advertising complaints that they might engender: " Note: All of the
above material is for education purpose only and is not intended as a
prescription for any illness." This comes immediately following
their "recommendations" for the use of shark cartilage.
Their ignorance is further manifested by their claim that sharks have
existed unchanged for 400 million years, an outright falsehood.
A Canadian company selling shark cartilage, Aqua Blue, proudly displays
their logo on their web page: A pair of jumping killer whales! Killer whales, however, are members of the dolphin family and are indeed mammals, not fish, let alone sharks. Aqua Blues "information brochure" is chock
full of phrases such as "No claims can be made..." "certain well
publicized tests have led people to believe..." "anecdotal cases,"
"appears to work..." The liberal use of these phrases throughout their website ought to set off the credibility
alarms in anyones mind.
By far the most outrageous deception Ive seen on the Internet
is a so-called "Notice to Health Care Professionals." This little
gem is an advertisement masquerading as a scientific study on the purity
and potency of various brands of shark cartilage. Unlike a valid and
properly formatted scientific publication, it gives absolutely NO
supporting documentation, no information on the procedures, no information
regarding the institution conducting the "research" or the
qualifications or credentials of any of the "people" supposedly
involved in the study. There is no e-mail or snail-mail address, and no
hyperlinks to this pages owners. Its the type of thing you see
in the supermarket tabloids with the word "advertisement" at the
bottom in fine print. Its a farce; an insulting and misleading
advertisement for one brand of shark cartilage pills.
And don't forget, the Australia-based distributor of
Benefin, only one of many brands of shark cartilage, is the son of
Dr. I. William Lane, author of the book "Sharks Don't Get
Cancer" and the man who started the entire shark cartilage debacle.
The truth is that any goofball can order a manual pill-making machine and
powdered shark cartilage by the pound over the Internet or by mail order.
There are no regulations or qualifications, restrictions or government
oversight, and so what some of these jokers sell might not even BE
shark cartilage, or may be "cut" with inert ingredients to dilute
the product and maximize profits.
Genocide in the Seas
The direct result of this misinformation campaign has been the
devastation of shark populations. North American populations of sharks have
decreased by up to 80% in the past decade. As the National Marine
Fisheries Service put it, "The fisheries service has determined
that the Atlantic shark fishery is severely over-capitalized."
One American-owned shark cartilage factory in Costa Rica destroys more than
111,000 sharks per year -- some estimates place the figure for sharks killed in
American waters for cartilage above 200,000 sharks every month.
Considering that some large sharks take 12 or more years to reach sexual
maturity and bear only one or two baby sharks every year or two,
it is obvious that this is over fishing on a catastrophic scale.
Additionally, Chinese and Japanese factory ships troll the waters off
North and Central America as well as the rest of the world, strip-mining
the seas clean of sharks with forty to eighty mile "long-lines."
The scale of the slaughter of these incredible animals can only
be compared to the annihilation of the American bison, the African elephant,
the humpback whale, the harp seal, the sea otter... the list goes on and on.
Shark populations worldwide have already suffered a dramatic and devastating
decrease in numbers. In fact, since it is very difficult to estimate shark
populations, several species of shark such as the Great White, Tiger, Bull,
and Mako, may already be endangered. Marine biologists are becoming skeptical
about the sharks chances for long-term survival or recovery.
The reason for this stupid, useless attack on sharks is simple, one that
has driven otherwise successful animals to the brink of extinction,
and beyond, many times before: Human greed and ignorance. Sharks,
particularly those larger varieties such as the Great White, Thresher, Mako,
Tiger, Hammerhead, and Reef Sharks, are sought for their valuable fins and,
more recently, cartilage. The Japanese, Chinese, and Hong Kong in particular
are ravenous consumers of shark products, especially in the form of shark fin
soup, and the use of shark cartilage (which makes up the sharks skeleton)
began skyrocketing in the U.S. and abroad with the revelation that sharks may not
The fact that this practice of senseless, systematic murder of magnificent
animals continues in the 21st Century is absolutely outrageous and distressing. By now,
the human race should know better, having established by example time and
again the effects of unlimited hunting of any animal. But, as has also been
demonstrated time and again, human greed and basic stupidity seems to always
outweigh common sense. The saddest part is that it is completely unnecessary,
since anti-angiogenesis agents can be obtained by other, easier means,
including from calf cartilage. No fewer than 24 other anti-angiogenesis
agents, such as endostatin, are being seriously studied as possible treatment
for cancer, but none of them are derived from shark cartilage.
Squalamine, for example, is a substance recently discovered in the livers of
some species of shark. This chemical is produced naturally by some sharks, and
has shown great promise as an effective anti-angiogenesis agent in lab animals.
So successful, in fact, that FDA-approved clinical trials evaluating the effects
of squalamine in humans are set to begin this fall. Fortunately, squalamine is more
easily and cheaply synthesized in the laboratory, which means that its manufacture does not
require the destruction of sharks. This is good for us because squalamine is not
present in the livers of all sharks, and is not present in high enough
concentrations to make extraction from shark liver oil practical.
Unfortunately, shark liver oil is being sold as a cure for cancer in the same
manner as cartilage, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. As mentioned, however,
the active cancer-fighting agent in shark liver oil is not present in all sharks,
and is not present in quantities great enough to be beneficial to humans.
Squalamine consumption may also be subject to similar problems as those associated
with shark cartilage, i.e., inability of the body to absorb it and destruction in
the digestive system. It may also pose the risk of side-effects, since it is
untested, and squalamine in shark liver oil comes with a variety of other chemical
compounds present in the oil, many of which may be harmful.
OK, so youre sitting there and youre thinking to yourself, ""So,
what? Sharks are mean, nasty creatures that eat people. Why worry about
killing them?" The truth is, sharks eat a lot of different things,
but "people" is definitely NOT on the menu. Shark attacks are
rare, and your chances of being killed in a car wreck or plane crash are
infinitely greater than your chances of being attacked by a shark. To really put it
in perspective, more people die each year by choking on toothpicks than have
been killed by sharks in the last DECADE in North America, despite media sensationalism of
shark attacks. Those shark
attacks that do occur rarely result in death, and are usually attributed to
mistaken identity. Swimmers in wet suits often look like seals,
(some sharks natural prey), from the sharks perspective,
and it has even been shown that certain shapes and sizes of surfboard are
more likely to be subject to an attack. Chances are good that if you have
been swimming in the ocean youve been swimming with sharks and never even
knew it, because the fact of the matter is that sharks are not
Sharks are magnificently successful animals, apex predators perfectly attuned
to their environment and occupying an important niche (read: "job")
in the Earths oceans. The benefit that we, as humans, may gain by
preserving and protecting sharks are as yet untold. Sharks may yet help us gain
a beach-head in the fight against cancer and other diseases... through
properly conducted scientific research, not faulty logic and questionable
experiments. When conclusively identified, the biological mechanism by
which sharks defeat cancer could give us valuable insight, but if we kill
them all for their useless fins or cartilage (useless to us, very
important to the shark) we may never know exactly what we can learn
SOS - Save Our Sharks
If sharks were small, furry, cute animals, this practice would have been
stopped years ago; public outrage would have forced legislation to shut down
the cartilage industry. It is the sharks very magnificent alien-ness, however,
that makes them so unique and special.
Helping stop this catastrophe is simple, really, and doesnt require
that you send money anywhere, or sign a petition, or generate a migraine
composing a letter to your Congress person. All you have to do is avoid
purchasing or using any product on the market that uses or contains anything
made from sharks (including cosmetics), and encourage your family and
friends to do the same - inform them of this colossal, tragic scam that
is being perpetrated. A lack of demand for shark products will help force
the fishermen to look elsewhere for profit. It worked for the baby harp seals,
its working for the whales and the elephants, and it can work for
the sharks! You can completely boycott those businesses that offer shark
products for sale and write to them and let them know it.
You can write to the Federal Trade Commission at: Correspondence Branch,
Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580
Inform them of the deception being practiced by those who sell shark
cartilage and liver oil.
Call your local Attorney General and complain about the fraudulent
advertising and promotion of shark cartilage and shark liver oil products.
Contact the local office of the Food and Drug Administration, listed
in your phone book under Health and Human Services in the federal
government section, and push for stricter regulation of the "health food,"
and shark cartilage in particular, industry.
OK, write your Congress person (or other appropriate legislative representative)
too, and let them know you support legislation protecting sharks, and putting
the scam artists out of business!
In the long run, the best thing that we can do to preserve the beauty
and majesty found everywhere around us is to teach our children
the wonder of the natural world, and to respect those life forms with
which we share the planet.
© 1997, 2000 Kevin A. Lundquist
Read more - Shattering Shark Myths