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Would you drink kerosene, the type that is used in lamps and heaters? No? I didn't think so either. Yet there are people making the bold claim that doing exactly this can cure cancer. SteadyHealth examines the safety of this practice.

"Helena Maglere from Honduras was dying. [...] the cancer had spread to her ovaries and uterus. [...] The case was hopeless. She was given one teaspoon of kerosene on an empty stomach. [...] in 4 weeks she had completely recovered."

"Kerosene heals cancer, even when it has spread."

"Distilled kerosene is not poisonous for us. Many cases witness it heals prostate gland, polio, diabetes, anemia, liver problems, intestinal problems, rheumatism and even various types of cancer."

"Many people across the region are in search of the only real natural source of petroleum in Kruja in Albania, which help in curing cancer."

What?

The above quotes are exactly what they seem to be — rather random selections from a range of websites on which people are claiming that it's possible to cure cancer with oil derivatives. The websites on which this "alternative cancer cure" is being discussed mostly seem to be using the words "petroleum" and "kerosene" interchangeably, probably a result of the fact that this oil derivative has been discussed as a possible cancer cure mainly in South-East European countries such as Serbia and Albania, and similar-sounding terms don't always have the same meanings across languages. 

So first things first: what are they actually talking about? Kerosene is a thin oil distilled from petroleum or shale oil, also called coal oil, paraffin in the UK, and more commonly across the English-speaking world, "lamp oil". This stuff is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid that has a range of possible chemical formulas, some of which are also used as jet fuel.[1] It also has a bit of a history as a medicine. 

Some websites get more specific about the type of kerosene that can be used for medicinal purposes. According to the folks at Rethinking Cancer [2]: "It is extremely important to use kerosene which has been distilled at temperatures between 100-150' C. At a high temperature of distillation the healing elements are evaporated from this mixture of hydrocarbons; the rest could be harmful to the blood. It is best to use kerosene imported from Poland,as it has these boiling properties."

Other sites are less specific, saying that the kerosene bottles labeled as being intended for cleaning metal can be taken orally.

Kerosene As Medicine?

Kerosene, the same form used in heaters and lamps, has been used to attempt to heal various ailments, ranging from cuts and scrapes and athlete's foot to hemorrhoids and head lice. In animals, kerosene was used to treat hoof infections and parasitic worms. Over the years, it has been used orally, as a topical application, and has even been injected directly into hemorrhoids.[3]

The websites that talk about using kerosene as a cancer treatment — though they're usually very careful to provide disclaimers noting that they are only providing the information for educational purposes — all mention that it's used orally in this case, usually along with a cube of sugar. 

The obvious questions here are whether kerosone is safe for oral consumption, and whether it really has the potential to cure cancer. 
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