Say NO to cancer
Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 | crankit
Cancer is a big killer in Australia. One in three Australian men and one in four Australian women will develop cancer by the age of 75. Over a quarter of all deaths each year in Australia are due to cancer. These sobering statistics mean that if you want to avoid cancer in a stressful and polluted world, you need to do as much as you can to protect yourself. Now. The good news is that your personal risk can be substantially reduced. Going organic is a good place to start, writes nutritionist, Shane Heaton.
Say No to Cancer
As a nutritionist I regularly advise people that if you want to restore, maintain or improve your wellbeing, you need to reduce your exposure to pollutants and increase your intake of nutrients. But in our modern world this is becoming hard work. We’re exposed to more pollutants than ever before in our food, air, water, homes and communities. The American Chemical Society recently registered the ten millionth man-made chemical. They’re everywhere, including in your body. You can’t avoid them all, and if you tried, the stress would probably kill you a long time before the pollutants did. Furthermore, much of our food today is depleted of nutrients due to overworked soils, early picking, longer transportation and storage, being grown and/or eaten out of season, over-processing, or over-cooking.
Organic food offers a convenient, conscious, natural and sustainable solution. Given the astonishing fact that you’ll consume over 100 tonnes of food and drink during your lifetime, what you choose to eat has an enormous impact on your health both today and for the many years ahead. Going organic is the simplest way I know to reduce your avoidable exposure to pollutants and increase your dietary intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Yes it’s more expensive, but in my opinion this is the real price of real food, and a good investment in your long-term health (see box).
Wealth vs health
If you want to build your wealth for your golden years, you know that you need to invest a little at a time over the rest of your working life, which will add up to a lot by the time you want to retire. Ensuring your health in your golden years is no different. Invest a little each week in the best food you can afford, and over the years and decades ahead you can enjoy robust health too. And what good, I ask, is wealth without health? Not much. You can’t ‘get rich quick’, and you can’t ‘get well quick’. Minimising your risk of cancer is about the everyday choices you make NOW.
What is cancer?
There are more than 200 types of cancer, but the biggest four killers are lung, breast, bowel and prostate. Governments spend billions of dollars a year on researching anti-cancer drugs with only limited results, while the incidence of various cancers has risen steadily over recent decades. However better screening, earlier diagnoses and some treatments have meant that surviving cancer (which technically means surviving for five years after diagnosis) is possible, and the chances of surviving some cancers is now as high as 60 per cent.
Cancer occurs when cells start to behave differently from normal – growing, multiplying and spreading. These cells stop working in harmony with the rest of the body and start running riot, developing their own blood supply, interfering with surrounding tissue and/or spreading throughout the body via the blood stream. Most cancer cells will be detected by the immune system and destroyed before they cause problems. However some cancer cells appear more resistant, or can flourish because the immune system is weak. Progressive and degenerative diseases don’t just befall us from the heavens. Cancers have causes and most of these are under your direct control. Understanding how and why cells start behaving abnormally and why you’re immune system can’t cope is the key to preventing cancer.
Cells can be damaged by free radicals, radiation, viral infections and chemicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are formed within the body during normal metabolic processes, though more are produced by stress, excessive exercise, pollution, fried food, radiation, etc. Known or suspected risk factors for cancer are high saturated fat diets, sunbathing to excess, exposure to toxic chemicals found in burnt food, petrol fumes, pesticides, preservatives, excessive hormones, multiple nutrient deficiencies and over exposure to certain electromagnetic fields.
Eating healthily, plus staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight, can cut your cancer risk by 40-90 percent, depending on who you listen to. Yet all agree the single most important thing you can do that offers you the best chance of avoiding or beating cancer is to eat right. According to The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), eating at least five portions of vegetables and fruits each day could, in itself, reduce cancer rates by 20%. The WCRF asserts that half of all breast cancer cases, three out of four cases of stomach cancer and three out of four cases of colon cancer could be prevented by dietary measures alone.
The pesticide-cancer link
It’s widely accepted that at least one third of all cancers are preventable (smoking and sun-related cancers), but there’s also growing awareness, and indeed evidence, of a link between cancer incidence and the pollutants, pesticides and chemicals in our environment. Yet linking long-term, low-level exposure to something we can’t see with ill health decades down the track is difficult to say the least. Many suspect the strongest evidence for harm is in hormone disruption. Pesticides (xeno-estrogens) mimic the hormone oestrogen, potentially disrupting the fine hormonal balance in our bodies, and may be why hormone-related cancers such as breast, prostate, ovarian and testicular cancers are all more common now than in the past.
“Until we have a more complete understanding of pesticide toxicity, the benefit of the doubt should be awarded to protecting the environment, the worker and the consumer – this precautionary approach is necessary because the data on risk to human health from exposure to pesticides are incomplete.”
– British Medical Association
Of course, diet isn’t the only route of exposure to pesticides. Non-organic agriculture also involves occupational exposures for farm workers, and results in environmental contamination that we’re all exposed to. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks pesticide residues among the top three environmental cancer risks. Just last year, research conducted by the US National Cancer Institute highlighted an increased risk of prostate cancer in farmers and farm-workers. A thorough review of pesticide research by The Ontario College of Family Physicians in 2004 found that ‘many studies show positive associations between solid tumors and pesticide exposure, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer, among others.’
‘It is clear,’ they say, ‘that an association exists between pesticide exposure and leukaemia…warranting further investigation and also political action.’ They also reviewed several studies that found associations between pesticide exposures and cancer in children. Key findings included an elevated risk of kidney cancer in children linked to paternal pesticide exposure through agriculture, four studies found associations with brain cancer, while other studies revealed an increased risk of acute leukemia in children exposed to pesticides in utero or during childhood, especially for exposure to insecticides and herbicides used on lawns, fruit trees and gardens, and for indoor control of insects. (The full report can be downloaded for free at www.ocfp.ca) European research confirms that childhood cancer, while still rare, has been slowly increasing over the last three decades, and at an increasing rate.
“People are applying the precautionary principle to their own lives by purchasing food that has not been produced by industrial methods. From the simple stance of hazard avoidance, organically produced food is the best option that we have.”
– Dr Vyvyan Howard (Toxico-Pathologist), University of Liverpool.
The evidence of a pesticide-cancer link continues to mount from around the world. An increase in genetic damage was observed in Danish greenhouse workers handling plants that had been treated with any of 50 different compounds. American researchers have identified a link between higher cancer mortality rates in four northern states and a herbicide used on wheat. Women in Hawaii with high exposures to pesticides through groundwater have very high rates of breast cancer, a connection confirmed by a Danish study following 717 women over 20 years which “supported the hypothesis that exposure to xeno-oestrogens may increase the risk of breast cancer”.
In fact one of the strongest links demonstrated so far is between pesticides and breast cancer. In 1992, Dr Frank Falck of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine found that women with breast cancer carried much higher body burdens of pesticides than women who did not have breast cancer. In a follow-up study Dr Mary Wolff of the Mt Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that women with the highest levels of pesticides in their bloodstreams had four times the breast cancer risk than those women with the lowest levels. A 2003 study by Belgian toxicologist Dr Charles Charlier in the Journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found the same thing: women diagnosed with breast cancer were six to nine times more likely to have the pesticides DDT or hexachlorobenzene in their bloodstreams than women who did not have breast cancer. Closer to home, researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University collected 800 samples of breast milk from around Victoria during the 1990s. Their initial findings, that many infants were exposed to multiple pesticides in their mothers’ breast milk above accepted safety levels, were disturbing enough. Yet more than a decade later, PhD student Dr Narges Khanjani used these samples to identify areas of high breast milk pesticide contamination in Victoria and compared it to the cancer data. “We found that the Ovens and Murray Shire was the most highly contaminated region, AND it showed the highest incidences of breast cancer compared with any other area in Victoria,” Dr Khanjani said.
Organic food contains more antioxidants
Now this, in my opinion, is the real benefit of organic food: In addition to containing less of the things you don’t want in your food, it also tends to contain more of the things you do want. Remember how one of the reasons cells turn cancerous is that they’re damaged by free radicals? Well, certain nutrients, known as antioxidants, quench free-radicals and stop them damaging cells in your body.
So here’s the good news. Organic crops tend to contain higher levels of antioxidants. You see, plant foods contain thousands of compounds, ‘phytonutrients’, that are not yet known to be essential for human health but are increasingly being found to be powerful antioxidants. We can expect these phytonutrients, many of which are involved in the plants own defence system, to be higher in organic produce because the plants rely more on their own defences in the absence of regular pesticide applications, and evidence is emerging that supports and confirms this expectation. Higher levels have so far been confirmed for lycopene in organic tomatoes, polyphenols in organic potatoes, flavonols in organic apples, and resveratrol in organic red wine. A recent review of the subject estimated that organic produce will tend to contain 10-50% higher phytonutrients than conventional produce.
In 2003 a team of Danish researchers published one of the first controlled human feeding trials comparing the nutritional value of organic and conventional food. Sixteen healthy people ate an identical 100% organic diet or 100% conventional diet for three weeks and had their urine tested before and afterwards. The food itself was analysed for it’s antioxidant content and the organic diet was found to contain significantly higher levels of the phytonutrient quercetin, which was also found in significantly higher concentrations in the urine of those eating the organic diet. So yes, there are more antioxidants in an organic diet, and yes, they get absorbed into the body (before being excreted).
Dealing with the big C
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, the first thing to realize is that this is not necessarily a death knell. But it’s certainly a wake-up call. If you don’t do something swift and decisive NOW, the elements that combined to get you into this position will continue to work against you. You need to get into gear as the manager of your life and take the wheel. For many patients, surviving cancer becomes a career change. Don’t leave everything to medical “experts”. Read, learn and implement what you find. Find conventional and complementary health practitioners you trust, as well as considering the advice below.
‘I went sky diving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper. And I spoke sweeter. And I gave forgiveness that I’d been denying. Some day I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dyin.’
– Tim McGraw’s country & western song Live Like You Were Dyin’
By getting yourself into the fittest state of mind and body that you possibly can – you can beat cancer. Cancer is a holistic disease; it follows that survival is a holistic strategy. Make no mistake, all cancers – wherever they manifest — are a head-to-toe condition. So a holistic strategy addressing cancer should include multiple elements such as detoxification, an optimum diet, nutritional supplements, specific anti-cancer remedies, and mental/emotional/spiritual healing. The orthodox approaches to cancer treatment still rely on surgery (cut it out), chemotherapy (drug it out) and radiotherapy (burn it out). Unfortunately these approaches are considerable additional burdens on your body, and often have negative side effects. It must be your choice whether you go the natural route, the conventional route, or a to try a combination of both. There are no guaranteed results; it’s really all about stacking the odds in your favour.
There are some key dietary and lifestyle changes you need to implement whatever treatment you follow. The things to avoid include unnecessary exposure to pollutants like traffic smog, pesticides, radiation, household insecticides and garden sprays; fried, barbequed or burnt foods; alcohol; stimulants like sugar and caffeine; hydrogenated or ‘trans’ fats in cheap margarines plus many processed and baked foods; and saturated fat laden foods like meat and dairy products.
Things to include more of include organic fruits & vegetables in general; especially foods rich in anti-cancer compounds like carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, red wine, dark chocolate and green tea; ‘seed foods’ like nuts, beans and seeds; freshly pressed fruit & vegetable juices using a quality home juicing machine; and good fats such as those found in oily fish like sardines and salmon and unrefined sunflower, sesame, and olive oils.
UK health guru Hazel Courteney says “Laugh a lot. Spend time with people (and watch films and programmes) that make you laugh; laughter boosts your immune system. Refuse to look at the downside. Stay as positive as possible – without doubt the patients with the more positive outlook heal more quickly.”
Many associations offer help, counselling and advice. One of the best is Petrea King’s Quest for Life Center in New South Wales. Since her recovery from leukaemia in 1984, Petrea has devoted her life to counselling people, facilitating support groups, running residential programs and lecturing widely on health and healing. See www.questforlife.com.au for more information.
Educate yourself. Some useful books you could seek online include Patrick Holford’s Say No to Cancer , Joel Nathan’s What To Do When They Say it’s Cancer , Dr Caroline Myss’ The Creation of Health, and Dr Rosy Daniel’s Living with Cancer. I’m sure you’ll find others of great help but these are a starting point.
If you are already undergoing any type of cancer therapy, Dr Rosy Daniel (former Medical Director of the respected UK-based Bristol Cancer Help Centre) says that nutrition is vital to help bring back up the white blood cell count. She advises patients to eat plenty of organic fresh fruit and vegetables along with whole foods like brown rice and brown bread. All animal fats should be avoided. She also recommends that cancer patients take a good antioxidant formula, which contains vitamins A, C, and E plus natural beta-carotene complex, zinc and selenium. Dr Daniel stresses that fear drains energy levels and advocates any therapy that can reduce anxiety, such as spiritual healing, Reiki, relaxation exercises, visualisation, acupuncture or homeopathy.
The bottom line
Major cancer societies and research organisations around the world continue to assert that low-level exposures to toxic chemicals have not been shown to pose a major cancer risk. The only way to answer the many questions raised about their safety is through additional research, and not enough is being done. The agencies that fund cancer research continually discount or ignore the causal role of avoidable exposures to industrial and agrochemical carcinogens, and put simply, you can’t find what you don’t look for.
While regulators and the agrochemical industry dispute any link between pesticides and cancer, one thing is clear: prevention remains a far better option than cure, and consumers who want to minimise their pesticide exposure can do so with confidence by buying organically produced foods. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Organic food represents an important safe haven in an increasingly polluted world. It’s not a luxury. It’s how food’s supposed to be. Eating organic food isn’t the only way to reduce your risk of getting cancer, but it sure is a good place to start.
I once visited a man, I’ll call him Peter, who invited me to his home because he’d heard of my involvement with organics. On the sofa laid his wife of 30 years, sleeping. Weakened by her struggle with cancer and her chemo treatment that afternoon. It was a very sad scene, but the thing I’ll never forget was Peter’s lament. “I can’t believe we waited till this happened before we got interested in real food.”
Don’t delay. Go organic today. Your life may depend on it.
Important: The information contained in this article is general advice only and IN NO WAY replaces the need for a suitably qualified health professional able to assess you individual circumstances and needs. If you have cancer or any other serious health condition I strongly advise you to find qualified health professionals you trust, and work closely with them to achieve your health goals.
Shane Heaton is a qualified nutritionist and author/researcher of numerous books including Organic Farming, Food Quality & Human Health, Stay Younger Longer, The New Optimum Nutrition Bible and Optimum Nutrition for the Mind. He’s the nutrition spokesperson for the Biological Farmers of Australia, and while no longer seeing patients, he instead makes great organic food available to everyone in SE Queensland via his organic home delivery company www.freshorganics.com.au