Brazilian Paw-Paw fruit, or guanabana

Connecting Cancer Control and Culture

Sarah is an intern at GCI and a junior at Tufts University studying International Relations and Community Health. At GCI, Sarah helps manage Global Tumor Board videos and finds fascinating and informative material to share on GCI’s social media platforms (be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!)


If you were looking for a make-it-yourself cure for a headache, then my neighbor’s mom was sure to have the answer. She often used certain fruits, powders, or herbs from her home country, Pakistan, for fatigue and a variety of other common ailments. Growing up in a small, diverse suburb in Maryland, I encountered an array of traditional medicines, including some from my own household, and I still enjoy learning about them. Naturally then, I was pleased to read Oswaldo Salaverry’s article, “Back to the roots: traditional medicine for cancer control in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The article, which precedes GCI’s Lancet Oncology commission, “Planning Cancer Control in Latin America and the Caribbean,” calls on medical and public health professionals to recognize and incorporate traditional medicine into Latin American cancer control. This might be done, for example, by engaging traditional healers in cancer prevention or diagnosis.

Traditional medicines are more popular than you may think. Salaverry notes that about 65% of the globe uses traditional medicine in some capacity according to WHO. When traditional medicine is so ubiquitous, ignoring it risks alienating many people. It’s time to bridge the gaps between “modern” cancer care and traditional medicine through culturally tailored health interventions and plans.

Leave a comment below on a health-related cultural practice you’ve grown up with or encountered over the years!

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