Can eating vegetables cure cancer?

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It turns out that cancer is a complicated beast (using an artistic licence approach) I’ll suggest that as each tumour cell has about 4 billion years of evolutionary success within it (each tumour cell has essentially the same ingredients and recipes as any normal cell) it will be difficult to eradicate quickly.  But, making treatments is possible, and lets be honest  – science has made great advances.  Most of those advances are finding out that cancer is far more complicated than we thought.  It’s a bit self defeating, but given that science is the process rather than the fact, it’s at least true to itself.

So, seeing websites that claim to tell you secrets for how to avoid cancer are a little bit patronizing (to say the least).  My scientific career is still fairly short (just over 10 years), but I really wish I had thought of using blackberries early on.

Click through for a full list.  I’ll have a quick view of each of them, but there are overarching issues with all.  Try and read this post and their pages side by side.

 Antioxidants:  Huge metanalysis (combined analysis of previous studies) studies have failed to show a robust effect of increasing dietary antioxidants In  vitro (essentially cell culture) experiments show that oxidation pathways are disrupted in tumour cells, and consequently the idea was that correcting these pathways might have beneficial effect.  For note, most metabolic and other biochemical pathways are also disrupted, and under normal conditions all these pathways are highly complex and balanced.  It’s not a case of simply changing one component will alter a single pathway.  There is scope for this to be true, but its by no means certain.

Nolvadex: there could be some truth in this, with several studies suggesting anti-tumour activities. . However, stressing organic is unnecessary and lets be honest – I have no idea what natural immunity is? I don’t think the authors are discussing innate and adaptive immune systems

Cruciferous vegetables: GMO and cancer is not a fact.  Additionally, the term pesticide is a blanket term to cover a whole host of chemicals for various purposes – but essentially it’s to get rid of something unwanted.  Yes, many chemotherapy drugs are technically ‘pesticides’ – they are designed to get rid of an unwanted tumour cells.  However, understanding the link between pesticides and chemotherapy and eating broccoli is beyond me.  What I would like to stress is that again, free radical scavenging is something the body can do when it needs to (the body makes free radicals, so saying they are all bad is daft.  Yes, they do damage but they don’t last long). Free radical generation is how the body kills most pathogens – leukocytes are ace at doing it.  So free radicals are normal. Like most biochemistry it needs to be controlled and regulated. Eating tonnes of free radical scavengers are likely to have little effect because it wont be absorbed in the concentrations necessary for antitumour effects. At point 4 they have stopped recommending advice and just said that biotechnology is bad.   That’s their stance, it’s not a constructive argument.  Its as meaningless as saying technology is bad, or culture is bad or history is bad.  A more specific critique would be good.  Also, cancer is not so bad if it hates garlic.  Anything that shares a common hatred with the Twilight films is good with me.

Recommending Chinese herbal medicine

There are drugs that come from nature (Nolvadex, aspirin, digitalis, etc.) however; a mushroom is a living organism – its full of loads and loads of stuff.  There could be extracts in it that work and that would be great.  Again, eating enough to have an anti-cancer effect is going to be tough.  There wouldn’t be mushroom left in your tummy for anything else.  Although CHM has recently caused alarms, accepting it at the level that there are drugs in nature is not a bad thing

Don’t recommend probiotics if you think biotechnology is bad.  They can’t/don’t commercially exist without it.  Let be honest though – having a great gut flora is really important.  They make vitamins for us (K mainly), keep nasty bugs at bay and mice without gut flora don’t do very well.  There might well be an anticancer effect –but it might be reflective of loads of stuff (lifestyles, general health, attitude etc.) that could be just as beneficial

Yes, eating a balanced diet rich in veg.  That’s important for everything.  However, the article suggests that eating fibre gets rid of fat. – that’s only possible by reducing calorific intake or burning more calories, not taking a miracle supplement.

Cancer is most likely terrible, and anything that can be done to avoid it is probably a good idea (not smoking for example).  However, eating healthily is sensible, regardless.  Having an approach that suggests Drs know this and wont tell you is just dangerous (you are placing your trust in uninformed/delusional or lying quacks otherwise)  Also, there is a movement to suggest that big pharma don’t like these cures because they cant make money from them.  I am not an apologist at all, but what is known is that to prove something works takes a long time (probably too long in legislation/bureaucracy).  To claim a natural plant can have anti-cancer properties would be complex.  The safest way is to isolate the active compound from the plant, test in vitro, in vivo (preclinical models), early phase 1 trials (healthy people) to check safety followed by phase 2-4 in people who might benefit (sick people and retrospective analysis).  If there is a magic chemical found in mushrooms then it could be isolated and manufactured to an active dose.  The power of conventional medicine is the numbers. Its very difficult to draw any real conclusions from small numbers, and if healthcare practitioners are trying to predict which therapy works the best, they are going to go with the most reliable one.  It turns out this is generally older drugs (with more refined regimes) because there a millions of case examples out there.  Many of the recommendations in this article also include non-cancer disease.  They suggest ignoring the Drs advice – in which case self-diagnoses of gut inflammation or fatigue is an entirely self reported symptom.  Although the reality could be the person feels something, that symptom is affected by a lot of other stuff in addition to the underlying (if present) pathology.  As people get better more often that they don’t (you can only die once but get better many times) incorrect attribution of improving systems is frequently done.