October 15 2007

Cancer Rates Are Falling. Let’s Keep It That Way.

By Mark Sisson

October is the month for breast cancer awareness, and there’s been some encouraging news. Although the month began with some critics arguing that the pink ribbon campaign has created a false sense of security that the breast cancer battle is under control – that pink ribbon ubiquity has actually hindered research and progress – a couple of recent studies are encouraging. The Big Pharma disaster, aka HRT (hormone replacement therapy), inflated breast cancer cases. As doctors are now more cautious about recommending and prescribing this course of treatment for women, breast cancer rates have dropped.

But it’s not just breast cancer. Encouragingly, across the board, we’re seeing slight but meaningful drops in some types of cancer, particularly in at-risk groups. A few standouts: lung cancer has dropped a bit in women (women are more at risk to begin with). Colorectal cancers are down in men, largely due to better screening practices.

Nevertheless, cancer is still one of our biggest killers. With sensible lifestyle practices, you can dramatically reduce your risk. I hope it goes without saying that we should avoid smoking, excess drinking, and junk food, but screenings are also a critical factor in taking responsibility for your health. Be proactive.

Here’s a helpful starter guide to screening recommendations for several of our most common cancers. (This is in addition to following a healthy lifestyle. For lung cancer, the absolute best tip is to simply avoid smoke, or quit smoking if you do currently. Here’s a beginning resource to quit smoking.)

Also, I’d like to open up the discussion to you: what are your habits and tips for preventing cancer?

Breast Cancer

Starting in her 20s, a woman should get clinical breast exams at least every 3 years. Annual mammograms should start at 40. Self-exams should be performed monthly, but make sure to do it properly.

Colon and Rectal Cancer

Starting at 50, get a test annually (fecal occult – FOBT- or fecal immunochemical – FIT). Colonoscopies should begin at 50 and continue every 10 years thereafter. Though colon cancer is often thought of as a men’s health issue, it’s equally important for women to get screened. I know you’re going to add in your tips below, but I can’t resist adding in a small note here: avoid processed meats!

Prostate Cancer

If caught early, your chances are really good. So get screened! Couple of ways to go: PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test, or the digital rectal screening (DRS). Based on your lifestyle and family history, your doc will decide with you, but you should do an initial screening at 40 or 45 at the latest. Beginning at 50, you should get both annually.

Cervical Cancer

The old standard used to be an annual test. Now, doctors say once every three years is fine for women who are either with one partner or are not sexually active and whose last test was clear. I tend to recommend going the extra-cautious route for everyone, but this is something to decide with your doctor.

Source: Cancer.org

Further Reading: The 7 Habits of Thin (Healthy) People

Vintage Bees: Cancer News

Graphic Source

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5 thoughts on “Cancer Rates Are Falling. Let’s Keep It That Way.”

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  1. Mark:

    It’s really encouraging to hear that cancer rates are dropping. Hopefully, this trend will continue!

    But it does cause me (and others) some concern that, every October, for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a huge, multi-organization publicity campaign encourages women to either buy “pink products” or to get mammograms — or both.

    It really isn’t that simple: Most women don’t know about the POLITICS that surround the entire “Cancer Industry.” (This phrase was coined by Ralph Moss, PhD, with his book of the same name.) This, and many other books, give lots of examples that demonstrate that the cancer industry has political and financial ties with pharmaceutical and chemical companies — the very companies that benefit most from the chemotherapy that is given to treat cancer. (Pharmaceutical companies benefit because they provide the cancer treatments. Chemical companies benefit because they may actually be causing the cancers, as several books point out — including Samuel Epstein, MD’s “The Politics of Cancer (1978, 1998); and two books published in 2007: “Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic,” by Liz Armstrong, Guy Dauncey, and Anne Wordsworth; and “The Secret History of the War on Cancer,” by Dr. Devra Lee Davis.)

    The Breast Cancer Industry is fraught with such ties. For instance, did you know that the American Cancer Society receives many donations from big pharmaceutical companies — for instance, AstraZeneca’s $10 million donation, earlier this year? (Arimidex and Tamoxifen were both developed and are distributed by AstraZeneca!)

    There are also political connections. For instance, when you buy pink products, with part of the money going to the Susan G. Koman Foundation, are you aware that Nancy Brinker, the founder of the organization, has heavy ties to the Republican party, and was named by George W. Bush to a US Ambassadorship? (She was also on governmental panels during the three most recent Republican presidents. These facts may not bother you at all — but they may.)

    Numerous articles have been written about the politics and financial ties surrounding many National Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities. Several articles have been collected and posted on the thinkbeforeyoupink.org website. (Think Before You Pink is a project of “Breast Cancer Action,” an organization that advocates concentrating our research dollars on prevention, rather than treatment, and states in its annual report that it does not accept any funds from “pharmaceutical, biotechnology, or chemical companies, or any other entities that profit from or contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.”) Another organization with a similar agenda is the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

    There are also lots of articles on the Cancer Industry on my website, http://www.HonestMedicine.com.

    These are the on-the-surface financial concerns –the fact that these organizations have financial ties to the very organizations that benefit from their work.

    But more recently, another concern has been raised — a concern that is NOT at all being addressed by these organizations:


    Several recent articles say that no, early detection with mammograms is NOT the best approach to treating breast cancer.

    One of the most vocal, and highest profile, journalists to write about this is Shannon Brownlee, author of the recent excellent, and controversial, book, “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.” Her point is that Americans are being over-scanned, over-surgeried, and just plain over-treated, by our medical system, and that, in many cases, this over-treatment results in worse outcomes. This, and a book called “Money Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much,” by Maggie Mahar, are two very important books; I urge everyone to read both.

    Ms. Brownlee addressed the mammogram issue BEFORE the publication of her book, in a 2002 “New Republic” cover story, “Search and Destroy: Why Mammograms Are Not the Answer.” Her main point in this excellent article — and she uses numerous credible resources to back up her position — is that mammograms, in addition to being moneymakers for the institutions that provide them, are the first step toward a huge cash cow these hospitals will enjoy when their mammograms discover breast cancers: chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, etc.

    But, as if this weren’t bad enough, it turns out that mammograms may be detecting more of the tiny (and less virulent) cancers, which might never have bothered women had they not been detected so early, and fewer of the aggressive cancers that kill. In other words, mammograms may actually be doing more harm than good, by subjecting some women with potentially harmless tumors to potentially harmful treatments — surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

    But the best part about Shannon Brownlee is that she doesn’t just criticize. She has a solution, too, which is to concentrate our research dollars on finding ways to tell whether a cancer is — or isn’t — the kind that will eventually kill a woman later on, so that doctors will not operate on all women with the tiniest (and least cancerous) of growths, telling them, “Boy, are you lucky we caught this so early!” (Well, maybe yes, and maybe no.)

    So, maybe it’s time that the “think pink” companies and organizations look to avenues other than recommending that women buy products and get mammograms.

    I realize that I have included many resources in this comment. I plan to put links to each and every one on my website.

    Thank you.
    Julia Schopick

  2. Lets folk about autism increase and lets help these unfortunate children and correct this big mercury poisoning in vacines

  3. My cancer prevention is a primal diet. If I can’t grow it in my own garden, I won’t eat it.

    I avoid mammographies like the plague, never had one, besides there is tons of evidence that the actual mammography is the cause of breast cancer … I don’t consume toxic vegetable oils that would accumulate in my tissue and replace good cells, why should I have to worry.

  4. Besides, the cure for cancer was already found in 1928 by Dr. Max Gerson.

    Cure for ALL cancers.