When a prominent Australian politician, the then Premier of Tasmania, The Honourable Jim Bacon, publicly announced in February 2004 that he had lung cancer, he was inundated with well-wishing communications sent by post, email and other means. They included 157 items of correspondence recommending a wide variety of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs). The most common CAMs recommended were meditation, Chinese medicine, "glyconutrients", juices, Laetrile and various diets and dietary supplements. Although proof of benefit exists or promising preliminary laboratory studies have been carried out for a small number of the recommendations, no scientific evaluation has been performed for most of these treatments. Their potential benefits and harms are not known. Several recommendations were for treatments known to be useless, harmful or fraudulent. Bacon's experience suggests that cancer patients may receive unsolicited advice to adopt one or more forms of CAM. Both patients and practitioners need access to authoritative evidence-based information about the benefits and dangers of CAMs.