My Malignant Melanoma

Seanty's experiences with Metastatic Malignant Melanoma. Part of Email us direct at

Thursday, 30 October 2008


Nature roundup

From the latest "Nature Reviews: Cancer", evidence that vitamin C is unhelpful for people taking chemo:

Nature Reviews Cancer 8, 830 (November 2008) | doi:10.1038/nrc2537

In the newsVitamin C: friend or foe?

Isobel Barry

Controversy has dogged the use of vitamin C supplements during cancer therapy, and research from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has brought this once more into the public eye.

A preclinical study has shown that pretreatment of tumour cells with dehydroascorbic acid has a protective effect against a variety of anticancer agents — including imatinib, doxorubicin, cisplatin, vincristine and methotrexate — both in vitro and in mice. The work published in Cancer Research suggested that vitamin C inhibited drug-induced mitochondrial membrane depolarization. Speaking of his study, Dr Mark Heaney explained, "Vitamin C appears to protect the mitochondria from extensive damage, thus saving the cell" ( 1 Oct 2008). The build-up of the vitamin C within tumour cells could also be seen in those taking it in large supplemental doses, but the current work is yet to be extended to patients.

Dr Heaney emphasized that vitamin C is necessary in the diet but stated, "I don't recommend taking supplemental vitamin C during that period of time that my patients are receiving chemotherapy" ( 1 Oct 2008). The amounts of vitamin C used in the study were extremely high, but equivalent doses can be bought in health stores. Pamela Mason from the Health Supplements Information Service advised caution, recommending that anyone undergoing cancer treatment "seek the advice of their doctor or pharmacist before taking any product not prescribed by their doctor" ( 1 Oct 2008).

However, Dr Chi Van Dang from Johns Hopkins University emphasized that the possible beneficial effects of the molecule should not be forgotten: "Additional studies are necessary regarding whether vitamin C as a single agent could prevent cancer or the recurrence of cancer once treated" ( 1 Oct 2008).

In the British Journal of Cancer, a couple of diuretic drugs (amiloride and hydrochlorothiazide) are associated with an increased risk of Melanoma. Source.

Cancer Research UK predicts an increase in mortality from MM between now and 2025. Source.

Friday, 24 October 2008


Why is it always the wives?

After a few robust discussions on various internet cancer boards, I am afraid to say that have noticed something about the average poster who insists in the face of all evidence that alternative medicine can cure cancer, and subscribes to the belief that conventional treatment in a harmful scam. (This beleif is of course a bizarre inversion of the truth)

1. They are female.

80% of complementary /alternative medicine clients are middle class, middle aged women. My wife tells me that when such women are chatting amongst themselves, it is often considered impolite to point out that they are talking nonsense.

99% of those who have insisted to me that there is something in alternative treatments even after being pointed to the appropriate Cancer Research UK or Quackwatch page are female.
This is a fact. It has recently been suggested that this is derogatory to women, but how can fact be derogatory?

2. They do not have cancer. Their husbands have cancer.

It's all very well pushing people into pretending to be positive, exercising like mad, and eating a punitive fad diet whilst undergoing the mental strain of a diagnosis of life-threatening illness. Try it yourself.

Interestingly, use of alternative medicine by women with breast cancer is correlated with lower quality of life, worse mental health, greater fear of recurrence, depression, and lower sexual satisfaction. Source1 Source 2

3. They are often American

79% of Americans believe in angels. About the only thing they don't believe in is vampires. Source.

4. They are often alternative/complementary practicioners themselves

They do not seem to see the conflict of interest this gives them.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


Vitamin D and Cancer

There's been some posting recently on Cancerbacup's message boards about Vitamin D and cancer prevention.

Whilst this is not as ridiculous as all other claims for megavitamin therapy, the evidence is presently inconclusive as far as Cancer Research UK and the NHS are concerned:


The poster on the subject also failed to understand that the study showing poor prognosis associated with low vitamin D levels did not prove that low vitamin D was responsible for poor prognosis. It showed that one followed the other, but day does not cause night. It is false reasoning to say that if something follows something else, the first necessarily caused the second.

In any case, as ever, prevention is not cure. Even if a higher RDA for vitamin D did have beneficial effects on the incidence of some cancers, that's a bit late for those of us already diagnosed, and recommending sunbathing to melanoma patients would be highly contentious.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2008


"Anticancer-a new way of life"

I have recently had a book called "Anticancer-a new way of life" by a French psychiatrist (David Servan-Schreiber) brought to my attention.

Whilst the author makes many helpful (if obvious) suggestions in line with scientific knowledge, he mixes in with them liberal quantities of reasonable-sounding nonsense.

Of course as a head-shrinker he is no more qualified than a member of the public to write a book on cancer prevention or cure. He makes this obvious in being taken in by alternative medicine propaganda which a "real" doctor would presumably have spotted.

Particularly insidious is the idea that things which might be associated with reducing the risk of occurrence of cancer might also affect the course of disease once you have it. This does not follow.

So let's have a look at a few of the claims he makes:

1. Sugar feeds cancer preferentially

Whilst this may sound plausible, it is unsupported by any scrap of scientific evidence. Source

2. Stress feeds cancer

Whilst plausible for many years, recent detailed research shows this to be false. Source

3. "Environmental toxins" feed cancer

In the sense used in the book, this is without scientific basis, and is actually informed by alternative medicine propaganda- here is a helpful article about this area of misinformation.

4. Genetics do not have an effect on cancer

This is possibly the most ridiculous assertion in the book. Some cancers are solely genetic in origin, most occur as an interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Source

5. Psychological wounds/Hopelessness/Mental attitude feeds cancer

There is no scientific evidence to support this belief, though it is sometimes held by medical professionals on the basis of their own partial recollection of cases.

The latest study showed no association between mental attitude and progression of cancer.

6. There are anticancer foods:

There are associations between eating certain foods and increased/decreased risk of getting certain cancers (not all cancers, note). Source

There are however no known associations between eating certain foods and survival once you already have cancer.

He recommends a number of specific foods:

a. Turmeric

Turmeric does indeed show some interesting effects. Unfortunately the dose required to obtain them in a human being is 110g per day of turmeric powder! Source

b. GreenTea

A recent study of 26,000 Japanese has shown there to be no beneficial effect on stomach cancer from green tea. Another recent Japanese study of 41,400 people showed no protection against lung cancer.

Note that this means that the previous lab scale work which showed promise for green tea is meaningless.

c. Berries

Bilberries have shown some promise in the lab against cancer cells. Source

However, any suggestion that they have an effect on existing cancer in the human body is highly premature.

d. Cabbage family vegetables

There is limited evidence for this, but strangely, the research only provides evidence for a possible protective effect in men. Source

e. Onion family vegetables

It has not been demonstrated to usual scientific standards that these vegetables reduce the risk of cancer.

There is no evidence to support the idea that they affect the progress of existing cancer.

There is however some evidence to support the assertion that consumption of these vegetables is associated with lower levels of cancer, at least in Europe. Source

The evidence for any role for garlic in cancer prevention is weak. Source

8. You can deliberately and helpfully stimulate your own immune system to prevent and eliminate cancer

There is no evidence for this whatever, and it is a cornerstone of a number of brands of quackery. Source

9. Organic food is better for you

There is no evidence for this whatever. Source

10. Meat causes cancer

There is sufficient evidence to associate red meat with bowel cancer. There is no evidence to suggest that any other link exists between meat and cancer. Source

Of course, it is not for me or anyone else anyone else to prove the author wrong. In science, it is his job to prove his ideas right. He has failed to do so.

He has not really even tried, but has just cherry-picked some attractive ideas with little supporting evidence, and lashed them together into a crock of poor quality pop medicine. A crock of something, certainly.

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Thursday, 2 October 2008


Useful sites, DCA, Green Tea

New Sites

A new poster on the melanoma board brought a couple of useful sites to our attention:

Of general interest:Melanoma International Foundation

And for those who are pregnant and have MM:Pregnant With Cancer

DCA, Green Tea, Alternative Medicine

I note also a couple of interesting items in today's British Journal of Cancer:

A study of the effect of green tea drinking concluded that it has no effect on lung cancer.

A review of the evidence suggest that DCA may well be a promising broad spectrum anti-cancer agent.

These interest me because they strike at one of the arguments of the "alternative medicine" touts and apologists. Science is studying the seemingly more promising "alternative" agents.

Mostly, as with green tea, the initial promise evaporates. Detailed investigation shows that the apparent correlation between taking a substance and cancer protection or reversal is not true.

Sometimes however, despite there being no possibility of windfall profits (DCA is an old, cheap drug- I could make it in my kitchen), investigations are carried out and prove encouraging. The review itself notes that drug companies are not going to fund trials, and encourages charities to fund them. It will be interesting to see what happens. I am hopeful, as I do not beleive in the paranoid nonsense about the suppression of cancer cures by big business. A trial has in fact already started in Canada.

What also interests me about DCA is that it started being sold on the internet in an unregulated fashion when word first got out. Like everything else, DCA is a poison at too high a dose. The right dose may however kill cancer and leave people alive. Proper trials will tell us.

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