Date: 28 02 2024


As a CNHC registrant, you may be practising therapies which are used by those receiving treatment for cancer. It is therefore imperative that you familiarise yourself with the provisions of the Cancer Act 1939 and take care to ensure that your advertising complies with the law.

You should also note that the Act lies outside of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). You can find out more about the CAP Code by reading our Advertising Guidance for Registrants.

What are the provisions of the Cancer Act 1939?

The purpose of the Cancer Act 1939 is to protect members of the public from being targeted by advertisements offering treatments for cancer.

Section 4(1) of the Act prohibits certain advertisements:

“4 (1) No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—

  1.  containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof;”

In other words, when advertising complementary therapies to the public you should not offer to treat cancer, prescribe remedies for cancer, or give advice on the treatment of cancer.

What constitutes advertising?

Section 4(8) of the Act states that:

…the expression “advertisement” includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper or other document, and any announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting sounds.”

It is important to note that the definition includes speaking to members of the public on the phone or in person as well as advertising in print and online.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Breaching the provisions of the Cancer Act 1939 is a criminal offence. You will be liable to prosecution as having committed a summary offence, i.e. an offence not requiring a trial by jury. The Act is enforced by Trading Standards.

You will receive a fine on a first conviction, and a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months (or both) on a subsequent conviction.

Any CNHC registrant convicted of a criminal offence will be removed from CNHC’s Accredited Register.

What can you say in your advertising?

You can advertise the therapy you practice to people with a diagnosis of cancer as long as you clearly state that the therapy is intended to relieve the symptoms of cancer or the side-effects of the treatment prescribed by their hospital consultant and that the therapy is not a treatment or a remedy for the cancer itself.

Your advertisement should always make the distinction between a complementary therapy and a treatment or remedy and state that the therapy you offer should not be used as a substitute for the treatment recommended by mainstream medical practitioners.

Avoid using the words ‘treat’, ‘treatment’ or ‘remedy’ in your advertising, as they could be construed to imply that you are treating the cancer itself.

How do CNHC registrants support cancer patients and their carers/relatives

A number of cancer care centres, palliative care centres and hospices provide access to a range of complementary therapies to both patients and their carers/relatives. These therapies are often delivered by practitioners on CNHC’s Accredited Register.

As well as aiding in relaxation and supporting wellbeing, some of these therapies may help to alleviate the side-effects of treatment such as pain and nausea.

CNHC’s website regularly features adverts for paid and voluntary roles for our registrants in cancer care and end-of-life care.

Where can I find more guidance on staying within the law when advertising?

We have produced detailed Guidance on the Cancer Act 1939 for our registrants. We ask all our registrants to carefully read the guidance and make sure their advertising complies with Act.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact CNHC. You can call us on 020 3327 2720 or email