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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 31, 2007

The Biggest Myth About Cancer: That It Just “Happens”

By Mark Sisson
35 Comments

There are many persistent myths about cancer and cancer prevention, but central among them is the assumption that cancer “just happens”. This is fallacious. How you live and what you choose to put in your body has a direct – and significant – causative relationship to whether or not your risk for cancer will be elevated.

Cancer isn’t an overnight event – it develops most frequently over many years due to a range of factors. A fascinating review of over 7,000 studies (talk about thorough) finds that what you eat and how fast you grow are perhaps most significant. I’ve long said that the fuel you serve your body impacts 70% of your health (the rest is exercise and stress management). But it’s interesting, especially in light of our Primal Health explorations, to consider the role of growth – and by growth researchers are talking about hormones.

The surest way to minimize your risk for all cancers is to practice a healthy lifestyle:

– do not smoke

– drink alcohol in moderation

– eat copious produce (this should be the “bulk” of your diet)

– do not eat processed, fried, junk, or refined carbohydrate/grain foods

– absolutely avoid sodas and sweetened drinks

– avoid corn syrup, cured and/or heavily processed meats, and corn oil

– do not eat trans fat or canola oil

– eat “clean”, lean protein  (organic, grass-fed, free-range, etc.)

– eat “smart” fats (wild fatty fish, fish oil pills, avocados, nuts, olive oil, purslane)

– mothers, breast-feed your baby if possible

– exercise

– get daily sunlight exposure!

– get plenty of antioxidants from your diet and supplements

– avoid hormone therapy unless medically necessary

– manage stress to regulate hormones appropriately

Further reading:

16 Ultimate Super Foods

Smartest Foods to Boost Your Brain

44 Amazingly Healthy and Delicious Naturally Low-Carb Recipes

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35 Comments on "The Biggest Myth About Cancer: That It Just “Happens”"

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Mike OD
8 years 10 months ago
Great post, as unfortunate as cancer is and ever growing number of people are affected…people need to realize they have total control of their health. Otherwise what kind of life is that destined to be sick by our own genes? I don’t choose that road as much as modern “sick”care would have me believe. Cancer is a gigantic industry…as there are billions of dollars to be made through drugs and treatments. I would also add above periods of fasting (cell cleansing and rebuilding) and plenty of raw fruits and vegetables (enzymes). Also removal of as many toxins from our environment… Read more »
Celia
Celia
1 year 11 months ago

You’re surely not serious!??? By saying this you are implying that if you have cancer it’s your own fault, which is not true. Yes your chances of avoiding cancer are improved by leading a healthy lifestyle, but the truth is that there is chance involved. The most health-conscious person can still get cancer if they are unlucky, despite their best efforts.

Dave C.
Dave C.
8 years 10 months ago

Maybe this is a bit of a semantics exercise, but I question the often repeated advice to avoid “fried” foods. Am I wrong in thinking that there’s noting wrong with the method of cooking, but rather with the oil used to do the frying? I “fry” a lot of meals but I use olive oil exclusively to do so.

Moe
Moe
8 years 10 months ago

Canola and Corn oil… I thought they were neutral–not especially good for you but not especially bad. What makes them something to avoid?

Tina
Tina
11 months 12 days ago

These oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids which, in excess, promote inflammation, which in turn spurs cancer growth and spread. For some reason, corn oil is particularly bad in terms of cancer. I believe I read this inNatural Strategies for Cancer Patients by Dr. Russell Blaylock, but I am fairly certain I recall getting literature from a hospital nutritionist after my cancer diagnosis about this. It compared tumors in mice fed corn oil vs. walnuts and showed much faster rate of tumor growth in the corn oil mice, as I recall.

Jerry
Jerry
8 years 10 months ago

Dave, I was thinking the same thing. I hope someone can share some more information on this. I mean if you were to fry something in coconut oil for example would that truly be bad for you? If your talking vegetable oil though then yes that is awful for the body. Hope someone has more info regarding fried foods.

Tamela Johnson
Tamela Johnson
8 years 10 months ago
I saw you on know the cause. I learned alot about your master formula. My husband just had surgery and they found cancer. The cancer has spread to 70% of his liver. He now wears a bag on his stomach to bypass his liver till he heals. They just started chimo today. The doctor put him on a low fiber diet, the opposite of what he need to fight the cancer. He could have this low fiber diet for up to six months, as long as he has the bag. What can I do to help him health wise.I can’t… Read more »
Arty
Arty
5 years 19 days ago
I know this is a bit late, but here is my recommendation. Milk Thistle, Raw Liver Powder, buy a juicer and start juicing raw vegetables, don’t worry about the plant toxins at this point, the alkalinity of the plants will fight cancer, also some people inject Baking Soda into themselves (which is a bit extreme), eat glands, especially the liver of animals. Garlic and onion cleanses blood. Drink pure, clean mineralized spring water with all minerals and trace minerals. The cure for cancer was found in 1928 by Dr. Max Gerson. His clinic is located in Mexico now because the… Read more »
markus
markus
8 years 10 months ago
This is a worthless and disingenuous “study”. It follows the same patterns of poor practice that so many seem to do nowadays. It reviews only epidemiology, and unscientifically attaches cause to association. It vastly over inflates non-significant associations, based on the modern obsession with being more concerned with needing to make a clear and simple public message. They decide on significance, not on anything compelling but on “probability” estimations, which are subject to current fashions about what is likely to be true. In fact, cancer triggers, even strong ones such as pollution and cancer, are much less significant than factors… Read more »
Kevin Dill
8 years 10 months ago

OK, lets get one thing clear right from the start, correlation (association), never implies causation, ever. It doesn’t matter how much the media and other people with vested political interest’s wish to make it causative, it isn’t. Secondly, lets add a little perspective, according to the latest data from the CDC colon cancer affects 51.2 out of 100,000 people in the U.S.. So pardon me while I enjoy my slim jim and raise my probability of getting colon cancer from 0.05% to 0.0575%.

Kim
Kim
8 years 10 months ago

When I first read that WCR/AICR press release I worried it was going to end in a flurry of blame-the-victim thinking wrt cancer. I’ve known a number of young and clean-living people who’ve gotten cancer over the years and I hate the thought of people looking at kids and young adults like that and thinking there must’ve been something they did to deserve it.

Crystal
Crystal
8 years 10 months ago

Moe and Jerry-I avoid canola and corn oil and other poly-unsaturated fats. Canola is made from the rape seed and is highly refined and cheap. Corn is just wrong. I don’t see the health benefits. Coconut oil is 100% saturated fat and is healthy. Eat away. I sometimes cook with olive oil but try to eat it unheated like on my salad.
Kim- Nobody deserves cancer.

Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 10 months ago
@Dave C: As others have noted, the problem with frying is the oil. Besides the damage caused in refining vegetable oil, heating any oil/fat to its smoke point creates harmful oxidized fats. Fats and oils that are high in saturated fats like butter, tallow, lard, coconut oil, and peanut oil withstand heat better than monounsaturated and polyunsaturated vegetable oils. I never cook anything on the stove at a temperature higher than medium heat and saute in water or broth whenever possible. Once a month I toss some soup bones from pastured animals in a slow cooker and store the broth… Read more »
Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 10 months ago
You can read the report here: http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/?p=ER It’s over 100 pages long, but it’s broken up into chapters, so you don’t have to view the whole thing. The chapter on food and drink is definitely worth a look. The authors compiled the data into easy-to-read charts classifying foodstuffs into columns labeled “decreased risk” and “increased risk” and further classifying by strength of evidence, “probable,” “suggested,” or “unlikely.” The specific types of cancers were also listed in the charts. In a nutshell, non-starch vegetables generally confer a decreased risk and red meats an increased risk. Dairy studies are mixed while there… Read more »
Daniel
Daniel
8 years 10 months ago

Sorry to contradict you but indeed frying is unhealthy per se. Only fried veggies are not that unhealthy but esecially with meat frying with whatever oil form cancerogenous substances and destroys the highest amount of nutrients.
Grilling and frying are the worst cooking method that form toxic substances into food.
Oil has nothing to do with it.
Besides the oil with the highest smoke point is olive oil while butter has one of the lowest smoke point of all the fact and is therefore together with coconut oil the worst choice for frying.

Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 10 months ago
I agree that frying is unhealthy, and I don’t do it, but your smoke point information is incorrect. According to the website Cooking for Engineers, extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 320 F, lower than butter and coconut oil at 350 F. I’m not going to post a link because it will flag my comment into the spam trap, but you can find the page listing smoke points of various fats by googling “cooking for engineers” and “smoke point.” A quick scan of the page shows that unrefined oils with low saturated fat content have lower smoke… Read more »
Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 10 months ago
And as for the comment that “oil has nothing to do with it,” please read this from the Cooking for Engineers webpage on oil smoke points: The smoke point of various fats is important to note because a fat is no longer good for consumption after it has exceeded its smoke point and has begun to break down. Once a fat starts to smoke, it usually will emit a harsh smell and fill the air with smoke. In addition it is believed that fats that have gone past their smoke points contain a large quantity of free radicals which contibute… Read more »
Kevin Dill
8 years 10 months ago
Still not buying it. The two biggest factors to cancer are still age and genetics. If you have a family history, then fine, maybe diet should be a consideration. For the rest of us, the individual risks are so incredibly small, that you’ll get better odds in Vegas. This type of research is useful for generating hypothesis’, but thats about it. In the case of red meat, the number of potential confounds is enormous. n-3 to n-6 ratio, sugar consumption, and refined flour consumption to name a few. It makes no distinction between a mcfatty burger , and a grass… Read more »
heykapo
heykapo
8 years 10 months ago

Corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed. The preponderance of these crops grown in the US are genetically modified.

Doug K
8 years 10 months ago
This is blaming the victim. The study is fundamentally flawed – it examined only (quote from Chapter 3 of the report) “evidence that aspects of food, nutrition, physical activity, and body fatness can modify the risk of cancer”. Since they did not control for the rest of the environmental factors, and ignore the differences between the US ‘red meat’ that contains a cocktail of antibiotics, hormones, steroids, and other chemicals: and let us say organic grass-fed beef: I really can’t put much faith in their conclusions. In fact that’s all they do – from the mission statement on their website,… Read more »
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nornerator
8 years 6 months ago
Olive oil should have the lowest “smoke point” of all publicly available oils because it contains the highest amounts of unsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids have less van der waals forces with each other due to the kinks in their chains caused by the double bonds that are responsible for “unsaturation” While saturated fats like butter have no kinks in their chains and so they can line up with each other and maximize the van der waals forces between each other and therefore have higher boiling points or smoke points. It is true that rancidity is a cause for… Read more »
Les
Les
7 years 9 months ago

I’m just curious what’s wrong with cured meat?

Michael Rayner
Michael Rayner
7 years 9 months ago
I get so angry when I see this type of drivel. It leads to the mistaken belief that illness is ‘deserved’ to some extent. It is well established that there is a causative link between tobacco smoke and cancer. This doesn’t mean all smokers will get cancer. Nor does it mean that avoiding cigarettes will guarantee being cancer free. There are many causes and risk factors involved in the many types of cancer which we simply aren’t aware of. Of those we know, not all are within our control. Cancer is not judgmental. It doesn’t care if you have done… Read more »
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[…] The Biggest Myth About Cancer: That it Just “Happens” […]

Selman Ijaz
Selman Ijaz
7 years 18 days ago

It is a great list of anti-cancer properties – however if you look here:

http://www.humancure.com/what-causes-cancer-and-how-to-heal-or-prevent-it/

You will see that cancer is actually caused from free radicals – free radicals is what mutates the DNA and causes cells to not function as they would normally – a large amount of mutated cells = cancer!

To get rid of those mutations (which are in everyone to an extent!) you need super-antioxidants – not just any!

The article above explains this in details and I hope this contributes to creating awareness of people who do not know this.

Jeff
Jeff
5 years 7 months ago

I don’t smoke, but I’d rather die at 60 from a life of cigarettes and whiskey than worry every second of my life about dying early from cancer.

The purpose of life is not life piled on life.

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