Not a doctor, nor a scientist.
A lady called Barbara Ehrenreich has just published a book on her experiences with breast cancer. It's called 'Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World.'
Ms Ehrenreich is angry about what she describes as the 'positive thinking' culture in US (and UK etc) surrounding breast cancer.
I've just read an article by Ms E. There's a picture of her and, indeed, she looks very grumpy.
Some quotes from the article:
'There was, I learned, an urgent medical reason to embrace cancer with a smile: a 'positive attitude' is supposedly essential to survival.'
Ms E's use of the word 'supposedly' indicates that she doesn't believe it. Which is interesting, as most of the medical profession believe that stress, depression and negative attitude will have negative physiological manifestations, ie affecting mental and physical health. Whether a positive attitude is 'essential' is I suppose debatable, as if physical causes of illness are removed a person may still heal, but surely conventional science would support the idea that positive attitude will at least increase the chances of healing occurring?
'Positive attitude' in itself of course could make a whole article, but I'll sidestep that one for now, as there is something else I want to focus on.
'No one among the bloggers and book writers seemed to share my outrage over the disease...'
Let's look at 'outrage' for a moment. My dictionary says 'forcible violation of rights'; 'deed of violence...offence or indignity.'
Ms E also says that breast cancer is an 'injustice'.
And she says:
'The notion of breast cancer 'prevention' should itself set off alarms, since there is no known means of prevention...'
So Ms E sees breast cancer as something that's been forced upon her, that it's unfair, and that it could not have been prevented. And she's angry that the people who've tried to help her are 'denying reality.'
You won't be surprised to hear that I'll be disagreeing with Ms Ehrenreich and presenting information that suggests that breast cancer can certainly be prevented, and that if we get breast cancer, the cause is somewhere within an unnatural lifestyle.
Breast cancer is a sensitive subject. Many of us know people, sometimes very close to us, who have died of breast cancer. I started putting this article together with some trepidation - would there be a backlash from those who have suffered (directly or indirectly) from breast cancer telling me how ignorant and heartless I am? But then I thought...sod that. If this article results in just one woman making changes in her life that at least greatly reduce the chances of her becoming ill, and increase the chances of her seeing her great-grandchildren, it will be time well-spent.
In this article I'll be discussing links between certain lifestyle factors and breast cancer. Links found by Proper Scientists, Proper Doctors - not just us daffy raw foodists.
I haven't followed the article with a lengthy list of citations, because it's a blog, not a dissertation. But, if you google each topic, you will find lots of studies to back up what I'm saying. Some studies will say definite link. Others will say 'we're not sure'. And, sure, a link between A and B doesn't mean that A caused B. Posh way of saying that is 'correlation does not imply causality', ie if women doing certain things are more likely to get breast cancer, it could be that the sort of women doing those things are also more likely to be doing other things that are linked with breast cancer, that weren't examined by the researchers.
Those who, like Ms Ehrenreich, maintain that 'breast cancer cannot be prevented' are presumably not taking any of the links seriously until they're all proven and ratified by x number of replicated studies, and causal factors proven. Trouble is, they're going to have to wait a very long time for that, in which time the dairy industry, the alcohol industry, the artificial milk manufacturers etc are going to do their best to poke holes in the arguments of, and discredit the research of, those whose findings can help millions of women. Time in which women will continue to suffer needlessly and die prematurely from breast cancer.
There is a common thread running through all the lifestyle factors linked with breast cancer, and that is:
Breast cancer doesn't appear to be a problem amongst animals, or at least not animals that aren't fed and watered by human beings.
There are cultures where breast cancer is unknown, or at least almost unknown. And there have been large areas of the world where it has been almost unknown throughout history - until relatively recently.
So why does the human female (and occasionally the male) get breast cancer? And why particularly the human being in modern 'Westernised' culture?
There are obviously things that we are doing that are giving us breast cancer. To date, we've been presented with quite a lot of 'clues' as to what these might be. They're all ways of living that are unnatural, not practised by any other animal in the world, and break nature's laws. It's my contention that when we break these there will be a price to be paid, of some sort.
Professor Jane Plant, PhD, CBE, explains in 'Your Life in Your Hands' why she believes that giving up milk is the key to beating breast cancer.
She'd noticed that the incidence of breast cancer in China was very low. (Or, at least it was at the time she was diagnosed; lifestyles in China have become much closer to the Western in recent years.) She'd found statistics that showed that 'only one in 10,000 women in China' died from breast cancer, compared with '1 in 12' in Britain!
However, research also showed that when Chinese people moved to the West, within one or two generations their breast cancer rates approached those of their host community. Their breast cancer rates also leapt when they moved to Hong Kong, and in fact the Chinese at that time described all Western food as 'Hong Kong food' because of its prevalence there. Most people in China couldn't afford 'Hong Kong food' and the slang name for breast cancer in rural China was 'Rich Woman's Disease'.
All this led Professor Plant to conclude that diet could be a key factor in breast cancer (and similarly with prostate cancer - the UK rate was 70 times higher than in rural China).
She did initially look at fat, and it was certainly true that a much higher percentage of calories in the Western diet than the Chinese diet came from fat. But Jane had been following a low-fat diet prior to her being diagnosed with breast cancer. But then, for her, the penny dropped. Most of the fat she had been having was dairy. However, the Chinese ate no, or at least virtually no, dairy. (Although, they are not generally vegan - where no dairy is eaten, meat and/or fish is.)
She immediately stopped eating all cheese, butter, milk and yogurt and 'within days,the lump started to shrink.' (And, for those who are thinking that perhaps it hadn't been cancer at all, Jane is a medical doctor and had been 'experienced at detecting cancerous lumps.') After six weeks of excluding all dairy, she couldn't find the lump at all.
More about Jane Plant and why she believes that dairy is a causal factor in breast cancer here.
(It's at this point that I hope there won't be anyone who won't bother reading the rest of the article, and simply ring their mother, friend, whoever to announce 'Just stop eating dairy! Your breast cancer will be gone!'. Because, firstly, dairy is not the only factor linked with breast cancer. And, secondly, there may well be factors that studies have not identified yet.)
But let's discuss dairy a little more before leaving it.
From T Colin Campbell, PhD ('The China Study'):
'In rural China, dietary fat intake (1983) was very different from the United States in two ways. First, fat was only 14.5% of caloric intake in China, compared with about 36% in the US. Second, the amount of fat in the diets of rural China depended almost entirely on the amount of animal-based food in the diet...Thus, the association between fat and breast cancer might really be telling us that as the consumption of animal-based foods goes up, so does breast cancer.' (p85)
And many studies have linked high consumption of fat (particularly saturated fat - found in meat and dairy products) with breast cancer.
Is drinking another animal's milk unnnatural? Staunch vegans will ask whether drinking the milk of other animals after human beings have been weaned from their mother's milk can ever be natural, and the argument does have a certain logic. I differ a little from the hard line in that I would be happy to drink a little milk from a goat who had fed her kid, had surplus, and appeared to be happy to be milked by human hands. (But, as that scenario doesn't exist where I live...I'm vegan.)
But let's examine the diet of the typical Western woman. She will consume far more dairy, in the form of milk, cheese and yogurt than even 'conventional' nutritionists will deem as being 'necessary'. She will consume so much dairy that, in order to meet her appetite for it, cows will live in misery, attached to milking machines, with their calves taken off to slaughter to meet the demand for flesh. I know many readers will not need the following illustration, but as 99% of us live blind (including me for most of my adult life) here it is: What if someone took the baby of a human mother away from her, murdered the baby ('humanely' of course), roasted the corpse then ate its flesh,, attached her to a milking machine for the rest of her milk-producing life, and drank the milk that had been intended for her baby? Modern dairy production and consumption isn't just unnatural; it's evil.
If we are to consume dairy, everything suggests that it should be in the very small amounts that the Chinese do, and we should endeavour to obtain milk from a source that does not also kill animals for meat.
Certainly the unnaturally high consumption of dairy in our society causes much illness - for example, asthma, heart disease, and, it is suggested - breast cancer. And some feel that pasteurisation (cooking) of milk exacerbates problems. Regular readers will know I do refer to the Essene Gospel of Peace from time, and it's interesting that 'milk' is referred to as a good food for man, but heated milk is the devil's favourite!
Drinking alcohol increases breast cancer risk. The more alcohol, the higher the risk. When you drink alcohol, you are taking poison, regardless of any (alleged) 'benefits', which are usually just the effect of mixing the poison with a few good things, eg red grapes. The net effects are bad.
Is drinking alcohol natural? We don't see animals glugging it down.
Breastfeeding offers protection against breast cancer; the longer women breastfeed, the less likely they are to get breast cancer.
Breastfeeding is natural. The suppressing of a biological function, and in some cases even taking drugs to stop the flow of milk, is unnatural. 'Some women can't breastfeed'? In Britain and the US around 60% of women breastfeed their babies at birth. In Sweden and Norway, the figures are 95-98%. Perhaps Scandinavian women are made differently.
Birth control pills
Women on birth control pills have a higher risk of breast cancer (removed only after ten years off them). Is birth control natural? I'll just point out that it 'has been said' that sex is for reproduction and/or creation (not necessarily the same thing). Will be regarded as a quaint theory by many. (OK, I'll say here that I have myself used birth control a LOT, but have come to feel that we pay the price in various ways for preventing intercourse from resulting in creation.)
Hormone Replacement Therapy increases the risk of breast cancer.
Obesity, old age
Obese post-menopausal women are more likely to get breast cancer. I did read an article that said 'we do not know exactly why this is.' Surely common sense would say that it's simply because overweight older women are likely to have done lots of the various things associated with breast cancer, eg eaten more dairy, drunk more alcohol, etc. No great mystery there!
Conflicting studies. But see Lisa's comment at the end of the article re toxins. Makes sense to me! And here of course, IF these cause, or a contributory cause of breast cancer, natural living would of course come to the rescue. One thing most people find on a raw plant food diet is that the need for deodorant lessens, if in fact it is needed at all.
April 10 edit - 'A major study has revealed that women who take a daily multi-vitamin pill are nearly 20 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer. The shock finding has rattled Australia's $2.5 billion complementary health industry, which is urging consumers not to panic, News Ltd says. In a 10-year study of more than 35,000 women, researchers discovered those who regularly took a multi-vitamin pill increased the risk of developing a tumour by 19 per cent.
They said the result was concerning and needed investigation as many women use multi-vitamins in the belief they prevent chronic diseases such as cancer. A "biologically plausible" explanation is that taking vitamin and mineral supplements significantly increases the density of breast tissue, a strong risk factor for breast cancer. Folic acid, often present in a potent form in multi-vitamins, may also accelerate tumour growth. The study, conducted by Sweden's Karolinska Institute and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has been greeted with interest and caution by Australian experts. Women who took a multi-vitamin pill in the study had higher breast tissue density than those who took no vitamin supplements
(Please see my Aug 08 article on supplements.)
So what about 'heredity'?
Yes, research says that if your mother/grandmother had breast cancer you're more likely to as well. But please don't see that as a death-knell! The reason for the increased incidence is most likely to do with the fact that lifestyle patterns are inherited. If our Mums loved to anaesthetise themselves with a G & T in the evening, we may well copy that behaviour into our adult lives. If our grandmothers saw cream cakes and ice cream as treats and gave them to us when we stayed with them, we may see those sorts of foods as 'nurturing', 'comfort' foods. Also, women are less likely to breastfeed if their mothers didn't (or at least didn't for very long). Cancer 'gene'? Even if that's the case, all that means is that you might have a slight tendency. But, with lifestle, you can change yourself into the sort of person who is far less likely than the average to get breast cancer, rather than more.
'If X causes breast cancer, why don't all women who do X get breast cancer?'
I'd suggest because the effect of one negative lifestyle factor may to some extent be balanced by scoring health points in other areas of life, that enable the body to detoxify sufficiently that which causes or contributes to cancer. Or, perhaps their body is indeed labouring under the onslaught of, eg, high saturated fat, but is manifesting this in some other sort of illness.
(Also, of course, a diet high in raw fruit and vegetables will be high in antioxidans and phytochemicals (carcinogen-detoxifying compounds) which will, research suggests, to some extent protect against cancer.)
'I know a woman who eats a hunk of Cheddar a day, loves her Scotch, is 94 and fit as a fiddle.'
As I say on my website, sometimes I wonder if these people are kept alive as a sort of divine IQ test for the rest of us. Do we model our lifestyle on the one (apparent) exception to the rule, or consider the millions that aren't?'
Returning to Ms Ehrenreich, she maintains that breast cancer cannot be prevented.
So, according to Ms Ehrenreich, the woman who lives on bacon butties and cream cakes, likes a bottle of vodka or five, has her child on artificial milk from Day One, and is obese, and then gets breast cancer, can be sure that her lifestyle had absolutely nothing to do with it. She's just been plain unlucky. It's just something that's 'happened' to her, it's very unfair, and there's nothing she could have done to prevent it.
But, equally, if I don't qualify what I've said, I'll get furious comments of the sort 'I know a teetotal vegan who has breastfed her children till university and has breast cancer - you smug cow!' And I do know of women who have led lifestyles of the kind most would describe as 'healthy', and have breast cancer.
I have noticed that some people can get very upset if it is implied that they have done anything that might have caused their illness - if they are in any way to 'blame'. And I have seen much venom directed at those who have suggested that it is people's 'sins' to blame for their afflictions. But if we define 'sin' as any deviation from the perfect way we know we can live (the way our 'higher power', 'authentic selves', 'God', whatever... knows we can live), with regard to ourselves, our greed, our self-control, with regard to how we treat the creatures we share the world with, what's the problem in suggesting there may be a price to pay for our transgressions?
As to whether we are to 'blame' for our cancer, most of us have been conditioned since birth, by society, to live in various unnatural ways, but at various stage of our life we will receive knowledge - surely the degree to which we are culpable depends on the information at our disposal and what action we then take.
As a raw foodist, I certainly don't think I'm 'immune' to cancer. Quite a few aspects of my lifestyle are unnatural, and I may well pay the price for them. And, even though I don't drink or have dairy, if I detect a lump in my breast next week, and it's diagnosed as cancer, I'll still be maintaining that there will be something I could have done (or, more accurately,not done) to have prevented it.
Ms Ehrenreich believes that breast cancer cannot be prevented and that those who think otherwise are 'denying reality'. Isn't it her that's 'denying reality'?
At present, very, very, likely reasons for breast cancer are staring us in the face. Science may not yet be able to prove everything to the nth statistically significant degree, but let's not wait around until they do! We may not have identified all the possible factors, we may not be understanding the how and why, but we have it in our power to avoid the unnatural lifestyle practices that very, very likely lead to cancer. It is surely only the complete ostrich who believes that 'breast cancer cannot be prevented.'
'The curse causeless shall not alight.' (Proverbs 26:2)