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Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Diet and Cancer

Now, I'm not saying that food does not have health benefits. If you don't eat it you will die, and following the FSA recommendations on diet is only sensible, BUT there is no evidence whatever that any diet affects the course of cancer.

That is not an overstatement of the position. That is a fact. The middle ground does not lie between sense and nonsense.

I may be angry, but I am right. As for the less angry pluggers of quackery on What Now - what is it that they are selling you with their mock humility? Harmless diet tips? Nope:

The canceractive website, books and publications of Mr Woolams (as plugged repeatedly by "Poet40") make Woolams lots of money from desperate people by promoting the following quack treatments known to be actively harmful (follow the links for scientific medical opinions):

Gerson Therapy
Gonzalez Therapy
Hulda Clark's Cure for all Cancers

They also promote more or less all quack therapies, including the following worthless crap:

Alkaline Diet
Shark Cartilage
VEGA Diagnosis

They also promote (amongst others) the following cretinous ideas, which are obviously unsupported by any real world evidence other than the mutterings of acid casualties, and those hoping to exploit sick and desperate people

Kirlian Photography/Auras
Electrochemical smog

Woolams' publications also plug a number of unlicensed quack clinics in Mexico. They are not in Mexico as Woolams claims because the staff are Mexicans. They are in Mexico because they are offering cancer patients expensive but worthless "treatments" which would seen them prosecuted in the US or UK .

Now, the publications are hedged all over with disclaimers, but mountains of worthless anecdotes are offered which support these various brands of quackery. Poet40 takes his cue from these publications, "offering ideas for debate", and seeming terribly reasonable. But these are not reasonable ideas, and the poet is not a man of reason.

He has said on the WN forum that he believes himself to have Electromagnetic Sensitivity. ES is not what its sufferers imagine it is. It is a mental illness which is probably curable by cognitive behavioural therapy.

So I get mad when I see people ripping off cancer patients, but I am backed by all scientific evidence, and the poet seems reasonable but is in fact mentally ill.

This is clearly not an area to judge who is right by who seems nicest. Not when your life or that of your loved one is on the line. Get the facts.

BTW, Homeopaths are not a good source of facts. Homeopathy is bunk, and homoeopaths are therefore know-nothing quacks.

Note that my personal qualifications are irrelevant, as I am simply linking here to the opinions of qualified medical experts.

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I am leaving you a comment direct here as I seem to have inadvertently sparked off a semi-riot by a comment I wrote in the "ludicrous" WhatNow Dairy Free debate. Firstly, let me say that I had no idea of the history of your experience on that site, being a relatively new member, so apologies for that, and secondly I strongly advocate free speech in all its forms and therefore do not agree with your removal from the site. However, I realise your writing style is forthright and somewhat aggressive, mostly because you are passionate about what you say, but I would like to tackle you on your blanket denial that diet does not and cannot effect the outcome of a cancer. There are a number of studies that results are to the contrary, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston's colon cancer recurrence study, and the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study for breast cancer outcomes. Just for the record I am anti quack doctors and homeopathy, coffee enemas or other such far fetched claims for a cancer "cure". I have also never sported either a beard or sandals. Why do I support the middle ground? Because it is where I stand. In my opinion anything that can aid conventional medical treatment, including diet, exercise and relaxation techniques is a good thing.

I'm not sure who you are, but this seems a reasoned comment, so I'll be happy to publish it. I'm sure I have never accused you of the things you deny.

Scientific opinion needs to be based on all of the studies available. As proof in scientific research is based on probability, even when there is no effect, a small number of studies will seem to show one.

It is also the case that not all studies are equal. Studies in peer reviews, accredited scientific journals trump articles in women's magazines for example.

Both of the studies you have quoted are basically solid, but both have more than the usual amount of their limitations.

To look at the studies you cite, the authors of the Dana Farber Study themselves admitted that their study is not yet complete, and that it had a number of limitations:

"We cannot completely exclude the possibility that higher intake of a Western dietary pattern may be reflective of other predictors of poor prognosis. However, we did not observe any significant association between diet and predictors associated with cancer recurrence or survival," wrote the researchers.

They noted limitations with the study, including the use of the food frequency questionnaire which is subject to recall errors, but they did considered the possibility that sick patients may have altered dietary patterns after diagnosis, which may have made them more or less healthy.

The researchers noted that study is ongoing, focusing on the whether specific nutrients or food groupings may strengthen the association between diet and colon cancer recurrence."

The WINS's authors also admit

"The research team cannot be certain that the low-fat diet was responsible for the lower rate of recurrence in the women assigned to that group, said Chlebowski. Other factors, such as the modest weight loss seen in the low-fat group or increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, may have contributed to the outcome.

Additionally, some, but not all, women in both study groups were treated with chemotherapy following surgery. The researchers have not yet analyzed whether chemotherapy was associated with improved survival.

As I said previously, the middle ground does not lie where you think it does. Consensus medical opinion will not be swayed by two flawed studies when better studies have drawn the opposite conclusion.

And if the studies were correct? Conclusions about one sub-type of breast cancer and bowel cancer cannot be generalised to other sorts of cancer. It may be that what is good for one sort of cancer is bad for another, or that what might prevent a cancer occurring in the first place promotes its recurrence.

Dairy for example may well be associated with getting some cancers, but protect against others.

I'm also in favour of anything which can aid conventional treatment. I'm not however in favour of false or inflated claims for things which can't.

I'm due to write something on the exercise issue later, but I'm always rather careful about this issue, for reasons which I will explain in that post.
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