The Cancer Act 1939 (2 & 3 Geo. 6. c. 13) is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed in 1939 to:

  • make further provision for the treatment of cancer;
  • to authorise the Minister of Health to lend money to the National Radium Trust;
  • to prohibit certain advertisements relating to cancer;
  • and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.
Cancer Act 1939
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make further provision for the treatment of cancer, to authorise the Minister of Health to lend money to the National Radium Trust, to prohibit certain advertisements relating to cancer, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.
Citation2 & 3 Geo. 6. c. 13
Territorial extent England & Wales, Scotland
Royal assent29 March 1939
Other legislation
Amended byNational Health Service Act 1946
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Cancer Act 1939 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

As of December 2014, the sole remaining provision is in respect of advertising to treat or cure cancer, all other provisions having been repealed or subsumed into other legislation. The Act does not apply in Northern Ireland.



The Act's most notable provision is a clause prohibiting taking any part in publication, except under specified conditions, of advertisements that "offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof". Prosecutions do take place, but are rare.[1]

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.

The Act provides for exceptions in making material available to registered medical and nursing personnel and pharmacists, and for material produced by hospitals and local authorities.

Prosecutions under the Act


According to an answer given in the House of Commons on 12 June 2014[2][3] there were 21 convictions under the Act between 1984 and 2013, and from then until 12 June 2014 there have been another four.

Convictions that have been reported in the press include:

  • Jerry Sargeant "was found guilty of four counts of taking part in the publication of an advertisement containing an offer to treat a person for cancer relating to three pages on his business website and one video on YouTube"[4] and his company, Star Magic Limited, was found guilty of two counts at his trial in March 2017. He was fined £4,700 at Westminster Magistrates Court on 8 November 2017.[3]
  • Steven Cook, fined £750[5] with costs of £1,500 in September 2014 for implying that colloidal silver could cure cancer – the case was brought by Essex Trading Standards.
  • Stephen Ferguson, fined £1,750[6] with £2,500 costs and £120 victim surcharge in May 2014 for claiming that protein shakes and vitamin supplements had cured cancer in two of his patients – case brought by Westminster Trading Standards.
  • Errol Denton, fined £1,000[7] for each of 9 offences, with costs of £9,821 and a victim surcharge of £100 in March 2014 for claiming that live blood analysis, lifestyle changes and herbs could cure cancer[8] – case brought by Westminster Trading Standards.
  • Adrian Pengelly, fined £600[9] with £2,000 costs and £15 victim surcharge in March 2010 for offering distance healing to cure cancer – case brought by Hereford Trading Standards.
  • Donna Sims, given a two-year conditional discharge[10] with costs of £1,100 in August 2009 for offering herbal remedies for cancer – case brought by Gloucestershire Trading Standards.
  • Healthwize UK, fined £2,000[11] with £2,235 costs in March 2009 for selling ellagic acid with claims that it could inhibit the growth of cancer cells – case brought by Derbyshire Trading Standards.
  • Andrew Harris, who sold Triamazon via the Internet, received a two-year conditional discharge[12] with £350 costs in September 2008 – case brought by Trafford Trading Standards.
  • In 2000, an import-export company called Plasmafire UK Ltd was prosecuted along with the directors of the company for selling an ozone therapy machine. The promotional material claimed it could "attack and destroy cancer cells" and possibly "dissolve" a tumour entirely. The prosecution included charges under other consumer protection legislation. The company was fined £11,000 (plus £1,000) costs. The directors pleaded guilty and had to pay fines of £2,000 and £1,500 (and £8,013 and £2,000 in costs respectively). One of the directors was given a community service order requiring 200 hours of work.[13]
  • Michael Sanders, a former policeman who ran an alternative health business selling Essiac, a herbal tea that he claimed could help cure cancer, AIDS and other serious illnesses. In 1999, he pleaded guilty, fined £800 and had to pay £500 in costs.[14][15]
  • Eladon Ltd, a company based in Bangor, was fined £500 (with £3,500 in costs) in 1994 for including mention of purported assistance in treating cancer in promotional materials for Siberian eleutherococcus root.[16]
  • Oswald Earp of Egham was prosecuted in 1944 in the Chertsey Sessions for promoting a substance called 'Tassa' which he claimed could cure both cataracts and cancer. In court, he claimed that he was not aware that his advertisement breached the Cancer Act, though the advertisement exhibited at court pointed to "cases in which rapid and complete recovery followed its use suggest strongly that it must be the same in the dreaded cancer though were I to state this to be a fact I should be liable, under the Cancer Act, to fine and imprisonment". He was fined £10 (equivalent to approximately £350 in 2017)[17] for breaching the Cancer Act, and a further £10 for breaching the Pharmacy and Medicines Act.[18]
  • One of the earliest recorded prosecutions was of William Peter Vickerstaff, a herbalist in Leicester. He appeared before the court in January 1943. He claimed that he was unaware that promotional materials in his shop window mentioned cancer and made an undertaking to pay costs £15 and 5 shillings in costs[19][20] (approximately £600 in 2017).[17] He was later tried again in July 1944 and found guilty—this time, being fined £125 and 5 shilings, including costs[21] (approximately £4,450),[17] though this was reduced on appeal to £20.[22]


  1. ^ "Harley Street practitioner claimed he could cure cancer and HIV with lifestyle changes and herbs, court hears". The Daily Telegraph. London. 11 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Cancer: Justice". They Work For You. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b Fulbrook, Julian (2019). "Harmless, Healing or Lethal: Herbal Medicine on Trial" (PDF). Journal of Personal Injury Law (4): 218–230.
  4. ^ "Man who says he cures people through crystals and star magic facing jail". Metro. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Man is fined after selling "cancer cure" which he made at home". Chelmsford Weekly News. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  6. ^ Coston, Rob (2014). "The acid test". Trading Standards Today. Retrieved 7 June 2024.
  7. ^ "Trading Standards: cancer cure claims prosecuted". City of Westminster. 23 July 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Harley Street practitioner claimed he could cure cancer and HIV with lifestyle changes and herbs, court hears". The Daily Telegraph. London. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  9. ^ Sweetman, Elizabeth (12 March 2010). "Cancer "healer" to pay thousands - court". Worcester News. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  10. ^ "Dursley woman pleads guilty over 'magick' cancer remedy". Stroud News & Journal. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Breaston firm fined for illegal cancer claims". Nottingham Post. 9 March 2009. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Pill salesman convicted over £500 'cancer cure'". Metro. 10 September 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  13. ^ Gibbons, Duncan; Summers, Kathryn (7 November 2000). "Cancer claims land import firm in court". Coventry Evening Telegraph (Leamington Edition). p. 3 – via Proquest.
  14. ^ "'Cancer cure' tea man fined". Loughborough Echo. 3 September 1999. p. 15 – via
  15. ^ "Ex-Pc fined over tea cancer 'cure'". The Citizen (Gloucester). 30 August 1999. p. 7 – via
  16. ^ Dyer, Owen (1994). "British Company Fined For Falling Foul Of Cancer Act". BMJ: British Medical Journal. 308 (6922): 158–158. ISSN 0959-8138.
  17. ^ a b c According to the National Archives Currency Converter
  18. ^ "Cancer and cataract - Pamphlet Advertisment Prosecution". The Surrey Advertiser and County Times. 28 October 1944. p. 2 – via
  19. ^ "In the courts: Herbalist to pay costs". Leicester Mercury. 23 January 1943. p. 3 – via
  20. ^ "Leicester herbalist to pay costs". Leicester Mercury. 19 January 1943. p. 6 – via
  21. ^ "Leicester Herbalist Find £120—Cancer Act Cases". Leicester Mercury. 18 July 1944. p. 6 – via
  22. ^ "Recorder reduces fines on Leicester herbalist". Leicester Mercury. 4 October 1944. p. 3 – via