A recent science blog on the Cancer Research UK website triumphantly declared, “Don’t believe the type – 10 persistent cancer myths debunked.” In a world where incidents of cancer are growing at an alarming rate and more and more of us know of someone afflicted with one form of cancer or another, it predictably kickstarted a fierce debate as to the efficacy of the numerous forms of cancer treatment touted both by the establishment pharmaceutical industry and those researching alternative methods.
Some of the myths the article purported to debunk included:
- Superfoods prevent cancer
- ‘Acidic’ diets cause cancer
- Cancer has a sweet tooth
Citing blueberries, beetroot, broccoli, garlic and green tea as examples of what have been claimed to be “superfoods”, the piece reduces all claims to nothing less than a marketing term used to sell products – despite the fact that all of these foods are readily available from a supermarket and the numerous studies pointing to their effectiveness are not presented off the back of a campaign to get readers to buy these foods. Effectively, Cancer Research is stating that it really doesn’t matter what you eat as long as it’s a generally healthy diet, and that there are no foods available which contain elements more conducive to combating cancerous cells.
Of course, it seems intuitive to many of us that by eliminating certain toxins from our diet we can avoid a variety of ailments. Dr. Servan-Schreiber, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh is one such person who has proven just how effectively diet can assist the body in fighting cancer, having been afflicted by cancer himself and suffered a relapse after adhering strictly to conventional treatment. His doctor’s lack of familiarity with diet as a means of prevention and recovery – he was told to ‘Lead your life normally. We’ll do CAT scans at regular intervals and if your tumour comes back, we’ll detect it early,’ – led him to conduct extensive research of his own and discover a number of ways in which we are able to develop and enhance our body’s natural defenses. By the same token, Servan-Schreiber understood just how much the wrong diet, high in cancer-causing inflammation aggravators, can do us harm and leave us open to cancer.
The foods which the Cancer Research article cites have indeed been proven to be effective in both preventing and fighting cancer: for example, green tea is known as a powerful antioxidant which activates mechanisms in the liver to help to eliminate cancerous toxins, while there are numerous fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids containing vitamin A and lycopenes which are proven to inhibit the growth of aggressive cancers. Furthermore, the article muddies the water by deliberately misrepresenting what many people have noted, describing it as a “gross oversimplification to say that any one food, on its own, could have a major influence over your chance of developing cancer.” Few people, if indeed any, suggest that one particular food in and of itself can offer a miracle cure or guaranteed prevention for cancer – rather, it is the accumulated health benefits of a wide and varied anticancer food diet that is likely to increase your chances of suffering from cancer or making a recovery.
Equally, their blanket dismissal of the significance of an alkaline rich diet – even going so far as to suggest that it is potentially deadly – flies in the face of copious research which suggests otherwise. The book Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Dr. Kelly A. Turner is just one famous example of research into the successes alternatives to conventional medicine, presenting thousands of cases where diet, nutrition and the mind/body connection have succeeded where mainstream surgery and chemotherapy have failed.
That Cancer Research UK would publish a blog dismissing an abundance of research as little more than myths ready for debunking perhaps betrays their commitment to the peer reviewed scientific method more than anything else – it is a steadfast commitment that many people also adopt, believing that only those methods prescribed by those in positions of medical “authority” can possibly work, and everything else is hokum or pseudoscience.
While it would be equally wrong-headed to outright condemn mainstream surgery, chemotherapy and other conventional methods, it is equally narrow-minded to insist that these and only these methods have any chance of success in fighting cancer. Only a fuller understanding of the natural capacity of our bodies to combat tumours and the broad range of foods and other substances will bring about a truly effective reduction in the number of cancer cases emerging in the modern world; only a frank, honest and open-minded approach to finding a cure will bring that closer to reality – in this respect, “debunking” the value of diet is a hindrance rather than helpful to the debate.
About the Author
Andrew Dilks writes on culture and politics at orwellwasright.co.uk. He is the author of Goliath and Flow. His newest book Prehistoric Highs: Mind-Altering Plants and the Birth of Civilization will be available in 2014.