Other common name(s): autourotherapy, urine therapy, urea therapy
Scientific/medical name(s): none
Urotherapy is an alternative method that involves the use of a patient's own urine to treat cancer.
No well-controlled studies published in available scientific literature support the claims that urotherapy can control or reverse the spread of cancer.
How is it promoted for use?
Urotherapy has been promoted for a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including cancer. Advocates of urotherapy propose several ways by which the treatment can slow or stop the growth of cancer. One is that urine can stimulate the body's immune system. Cancer and other diseases release chemicals called antigens into the bloodstream. When the immune system detects them, it responds by making antibodies to fight the invading disease. Some of the antigens made by cancer cells appear in the urine, so practitioners have hypothesized that if they give urine to cancer patients, the immune system would react more vigorously by making a greater number of antibodies, thereby increasing its capacity to kill tumor cells.
Other practitioners have suggested that urine inhibits the ability of cancer cells to crowd together, which disrupts their flow of nutrients and waste excretion. Without any way to nourish themselves or get rid of waste products, the tumor cells die.
One proponent asserts that certain components in urine establish a biochemical defense system that works independently of the body's immune system. It is claimed that these chemicals don't destroy cancer cells, but “correct” their defects and prevent them from spreading.
What does it involve?
Patients undergoing urotherapy may drink their own urine (from a few drops to full glasses), use it as an enema, or have it injected directly into the bloodstream or into tumors. In powdered form, urea, the primary component of urine, has been applied directly to tumors appearing on the skin. Urea may also be packed into capsules or dissolved in a flavored drink. There are no established guidelines for how much urine or urea should be used.
What is the history behind it?
The thought of drinking urine may offend the sensibilities of most Westerners, but in fact, human urine has been considered a healing agent in many Asian cultures for centuries. In India, this practice has been a part of traditional medical practices for thousands of years.
In the mid-1950s, a Greek doctor named Evangelos Danopolous, MD, professed that he had identified anti-cancer properties in urea and had used the compound to successfully treat patients with certain types of skin and liver cancer. Dr. Danopolous claimed that his therapy significantly extended patients' lives. He published several small positive case reports, but later studies by other researchers did not achieve the same results.
Other doctors have also claimed that urea has anti-cancer characteristics. One of them, Vincent Speckhart, MD, testified about urea's benefits before a House of Representatives Committee. A breast cancer patient whom Dr. Speckhart treated with urea reportedly recovered from her disease and was alive 10 years after therapy.
Urotherapy is currently offered along with other forms of alternative therapy in some cancer clinics in Mexico.
What is the evidence?
There are some individual reports of urotherapy's ability to stop cancer growth. However, available scientific evidence does not support claims that urine or urea given in any form is helpful for cancer patients. Two small studies done during the 1980s found urea did not cause tumors to shrink in patients with cancer in the liver.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
Individuals have reported that drinking or injecting urine or applying it directly to the skin is safe and not linked to any harmful side effects, but the safety of these practices has not been established by scientific studies. There have been reports of nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea after drinking one's own urine, especially during the first few days. Some medications are excreted into the urine, and by drinking their own urine, patients can accumulate toxic levels of these drugs.
Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences.
More information from your American Cancer Society
The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our Web site (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).
The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management
Clark PI, Slevin ML, Webb JA, Osborne RJ, Jones S, Wrigley PF. Oral urea in the treatment of secondary tumours in the liver. Br J Cancer. 1988;57:317-318.
Danopoulos ED, Danopoulou IE. Eleven years experience of oral urea treatment in liver malignancies. Clin Oncol. 1981;7:281-289.
Danopoulos ED, Danopoulou IE, Besbeas S, Ramantanis G. The effects of urea treatment in combination with curettage in extensive lip cancers. J Surg Oncol. 1982;19:127-131.
Eldor J. Urotherapy for patients with cancer. Med Hypotheses. 1997;48:309-315.
Gussow L. Take-home lessons from unusual toxicology cases. Emergency Medicine News; 2004;26:52,57.
Hooper TL, Rahman M, Magell J. Oral urea in the treatment of colo-rectal liver metastases. Clin Oncol. 1984;10:341-344.
Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.
Last Revised: 11/01/2008