Losing and winning the cancer war

Despite claims of increased survival the cancer war is clearly being lost. Lifetime risk for cancer has risen by 49% in 30 years and is currently 1 in 3, expected to be 1 in 2 by 2020. Breast cancer is up 80% and prostate cancer is up by 100%. As such cancer will soon become the number 1 killer of people under age 50. Currently, cancer kills 1 in 4 people.

The American Cancer Society claim a 1% decrease in new diagnoses between 1990 and 2006, 40% of which they attribute to less lung cancer presumably as less people smoke. That leaves half a percent decrease.

In 2009 in the US there were 1.5 million cases, and 560,000 deaths. Claims of increased survival refer to 5 year survival rates, largely due to earlier diagnoses. Actual long-term survival figures have not increased substantially. Yet, we know so much more about what causes and prevents cancer, and also how to treat it naturally, but why isn’t the message getting through? Dr James LeFanu, medical columnist in the Telegraph, points out that “The cause of virtually every illness in the medical textbook…is quite unknown.” So, armed with causal ignorance, medical treatment targets only the tumour, not what causes cancer cells to develop. It is a gross oversight. Three out of four cancers are preventable, says Cancer Research Campaign, with 85 to 90% of cancers being caused by environmental factors.

You can cut your risk by 40% just by changing your diet, says World Cancer Research Fund. But, with the right supplements, including vitamin C, D, B vitamins and antioxidants, and lifestyle changes as well you can slash your risk. For a cell to become a cancer cell there are five necessary factors.

First, DNA must be damaged. Free radicals are a major culprit, and that’s where high antioxidant diets come in.

Second, DNA repair mechanisms must be under par. Repair is largely done by methylation, dependent on folic acid, B6 and B12. Faulty methylation is indicated by raised homocysteine levels, which is an excellent predictor for cancer, but I’ve never heard of a cancer patient having theirs checked. It should be routine.

Thirdly, you need cancer promoters. Oestrogens, insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1) are key cancer cell growth promoters, raised by a diet high in sugar and refined carbs and milk – just what many cancer patients are given to ‘build them up’. Being significantly overweight accounts for 20% of a woman’s cancer risk, compared to 30% for smoking. The last pre-condition is a weakened immune system. Key nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and phytonutrients from broccoli to turmeric are no brainers in an anti-cancer diet, but are rarely mentioned.

While surgery makes sense, since removing the tumour takes a load off the body’s immune system, conventional chemotherapy both weakens immunity and induces pretty horrible side-effects. It also isn’t very effective. A comprehensive meta-analysis of trials on chemotherapy concludes “The contribution of chemotherapy to five year survival in adults was 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.” They emphasise that these figures “should be regarded as the upper limit of effectiveness” (Morgan et al, Clinical Oncology, 2004).

As far as treatment is concerned few cancer sufferers know there are non-toxic chemotherapy agents. My three favourites are megadose vitamin C, salvestrols and photodynamic therapy. First proposed in the 60’s by Linus Pauling, megadose vitamin C is now proven to be profoundly anti-cancer. In animal studies it literally halves tumour size in weeks (Chen et al, PNAS, 2008), but you need very high doses, either by IV, or up to ‘bowel tolerance’ for oral doses. Megadose vitamin C does no harm to healthy cells. Salvestrols are compounds in certain fruits and vegetables.

Resveratrol in red grapes, is a type of salvestrol. These convert, only in cancer cells, into a toxic substance that kills cancer cells, but doesn’t harm normal cells (G.A. Potter & M.D. Burkey, Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 2006). Concentrated supplements of salvestrols are available. While human clinical trials have not yet been conducted there are some impressive case reports. Photodynamic therapy gives cancer patients a photosensitizer agent intravenously, which accumulates in cancer cells. When it is activated by laser light, fed by a fibre optic cable into the heart of a tumour, it produces oxidants that kill the cancer cells. These are three promising non-toxic cancer treatments but, of course, one ounce of prevention is worth a few pounds of treatment.

The problem is that cancer prevention is clearly multi-factorial and unless there’s a single cause-effect, such as smoking and lung cancer, both governments and the medical profession have a hard time hearing the message or getting it across. With £200 billion a year spent on largely ineffective cancer treatments, and the Cancer Act of 1938 that actually prohibits anyone other than a doctor treating cancer, this sorry state of affairs is unlikely to change. Those doctors that do use natural medicine have an unfortunate habit of getting struck off! So, it’s largely up to the individual to find out what they can and take brave steps, away from convention, to help themselves. For more information join me at my seminar Say No to Cancer, Infection and Allergies or see the brand new edition of Say No to Cancer.