The Benefits of Shark Cartilage

Shark cartilage is a substance sourced from the skeletons of sharks. Available in dietary supplement form, shark cartilage is said to offer a number of health benefits. Proponents often claim that shark cartilage can fight cancer.

Shark cartilage contains several compounds purported to improve health, including proteins known as proteoglycans and glycoproteins. Shark cartilage also contains collagen.

Uses for Shark Cartilage

In alternative medicine, shark cartilage is said to help with the following health problems:

Health Benefits of Shark Cartilage

Preliminary studies suggest that shark cartilage may have some health benefits. Here's a glimpse at some key study findings on shark cartilage:

1) Cancer

Shark cartilage is said to protect against cancer. Proponents suggest that shark cartilage can fight cancer by slowing or stopping the growth of blood vessels that tumors need to thrive.

So far, most of the studies showing anti-cancer benefits from shark cartilage have been conducted on animals and human cells. Several of these studies indicate that shark cartilage may act as an anti-angiogenic agent (a type of substance that stalls the growth of new blood vessels) and, in turn, inhibit the development of cancerous tumors.

Despite these preliminary findings, few clinical trials have demonstrated that shark cartilage may provide anti-cancer benefits. In a 2005 study published in the journal Cancer, for instance, researchers found that shark cartilage failed to improve survival in people with advanced cancer. For the study, 83 advanced-cancer patients were given either shark cartilage or a placebo in combination with standard care.

Researchers found no difference in survival between the two groups. Shark cartilage also appeared to have no effect on quality of life.

2) Psoriasis

There's some evidence that shark cartilage shows promise in the treatment of psoriasis, however. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2002 found that AE-941 (a product containing shark cartilage extract) may help control psoriasis symptoms. The study involved 49 patients with psoriasis, each of whom received varying doses of AE-941 for 12 weeks. Results revealed that those given higher doses of AE-941 experienced significant improvements in several symptoms of psoriasis, including itching.

See: Natural Remedies for Psoriasis


Shark cartilage may trigger a number of adverse effects, including nausea, indigestion, fatigue, fever, dizziness, constipation, and low blood pressure. There's also some concern that shark cartilage may affect liver function and impair recovery from surgery. Recently, it was discovered that shark cartilage may contain high levels of a compound called beta-methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA, which has been linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease.


Since shark cartilage may increase your calcium levels, it should be avoided by people with abnormally high blood levels of calcium (a condition known as hypercalcemia).

In addition, people with seafood allergies may experience allergic reactions when consuming shark cartilage.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Learn more about using dietary supplements safely.

Environmental advocates say that the use of shark cartilage contributes to decline in shark populations throughout the world.

Alternatives to Shark Cartilage

To boost your defense against cancer, it's important to avoid smoking, limit your alcohol intake, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. There's also some evidence that people with a diet high in antioxidants may have a lower risk for cancer. In addition, maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D might help protect against some forms of cancer.

If you're seeking a natural remedy for psoriasis, research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, aloe vera, and capsaicin cream may alleviate psoriasis symptoms.

Where To Find It

Available for purchase online, supplements containing shark cartilage are found in some natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using Shark Cartilage for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend shark cartilage as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that treating a chronic condition or major disease (such as cancer) with shark cartilage and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences. If you're considering using shark cartilage for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.


American Cancer Society. "Shark Cartilage." December 2012.

Gingras D, Renaud A, Mousseau N, Béliveau R. "Shark cartilage extracts as antiangiogenic agents: smart drinks or bitter pills?" Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2000;19(1-2):83-6.

Miller DR, Anderson GT, Stark JJ, Granick JL, Richardson D. "Phase I/II trial of the safety and efficacy of shark cartilage in the treatment of advanced cancer." J Clin Oncol. 1998 Nov;16(11):3649-55.

Loprinzi CL, Levitt R, Barton DL, Sloan JA, Atherton PJ, Smith DJ, Dakhil SR, Moore DF Jr, Krook JE, Rowland KM Jr, Mazurczak MA, Berg AR, Kim GP; North Central Cancer Treatment Group. "Evaluation of shark cartilage in patients with advanced cancer: a North Central Cancer Treatment Group trial." Cancer. 2005 Jul 1;104(1):176-82.

Ostrander GK, Cheng KC, Wolf JC, Wolfe MJ. "Shark cartilage, cancer and the growing threat of pseudoscience." Cancer Res. 2004 Dec 1;64(23):8485-91.

Sauder DN, Dekoven J, Champagne P, Croteau D, Dupont E. "Neovastat (AE-941), an inhibitor of angiogenesis: Randomized phase I/II clinical trial results in patients with plaque psoriasis." J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Oct;47(4):535-41.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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