An epidemic of cancer

I was born in Italy and, though I have been living in this country almost thirty years, I still enjoy reading the online version of a major Italian newspaper, the Corriere della Sera.

Recently, the paper presented an in-depth investigation on cancer rates and their distribution in Italy over the past twenty years, reaching the conclusion that cancer rates have reached epidemic proportions. In comparing rates reported in the 1980’s to those from the early 2000’s, investigators found increases in every type of cancer. Even lung cancer rates that had initially dropped as people stopped smoking had started rising again.

Average rate increases were in the range of 20 to 30% although among childhood cancers the increases were more like 50 to 70%. Though these increases could be seen throughout the country, the paper mapped out areas where the increases were the sharpest and made an interesting – though not altogether surprising – correlation: they were all in close proximity to major petrochemical plants!

Italian cancer rates may seem remote enough, except that they probably reflect a worldwide trend; besides, in Houston we are just around the corner from one of the largest – if not the largest – petrochemical industrial complexes in the world. Here at home, however, there is little if any debate over increasing cancer rates. Not only that, but every time the topic is
mentioned it always seems to be accompanied by official denials and the explanation that any apparent increase may be the result of earlier diagnosis and increased life expectancy.

There is no doubt that modern technology has led to earlier diagnoses for many types of cancer. This certainly could produce a bubble of newly diagnosed cases that could briefly
look like an epidemic. However, this should quickly equalize and actually lead to an apparent fall in new cases. In no way could it justify a steadily increasing trend that spans decades.

Life expectancy is a very misunderstood topic, I believe even among medical experts. I have written about it in the past and will not go over it in detail again here. I will just say that life
expectancy does not mean that people live longer, just that more people reach old age.

Length of life, which is referred to as longevity, has not varied throughout recorded history. In fact, societies where people are reported to live to a very old age (like 120) are all traditional societies not affected by modern lifestyles and largely untouched by modern medicine.

Life expectancy actually increased most dramatically before the advent of modern medicine as a result of improved food distribution and safety, and better hygiene. In recent decades it has been relatively flat, with only modest increases.

In any case, increased life expectancy could only justify proportional increases in cancer rates equal to a greater share of the population reaching old age. But, actually, the elderly are not the group experiencing the steepest rise in cancer rates. The steepest rise is in children and young adults. Childhood leukemia is at an all-time high; breast cancer is affecting

women of always younger age; and prostate cancer, once an old man’s illness, is becoming common in men in their thirties. In no way can this result from increases in life expectancy.

When it comes to cancer, even people otherwise prone to seeking alternative treatments often feel they have no options but actually the options do exist; it’s just a matter of knowing
about them. Recently, as I was searching online, I came across a book entitled “Outsmart your Cancer,” which I ordered and read. The author, Tanya Harter Pierce, is a family counselor who apparently decided to research alternative treatments when a relative was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At some point this research must have become a passion for her because she seems to have read every book on the topic, interviewed dozens of people, and then summarized her findings in her own book.

Unlike other books on cancer, this one is very readable and is written for the general public. In fact, considering the topic, I found it almost enjoyable. The author starts out by quoting a statistic published by the American Cancer Society in 1996 indicating that 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some time in their lives. Though this figure has not been officially updated, the author speculates that it might be closer to 50% today. Given these odds, it would make sense for anyone with an interest in health to read Tanya Pierce’s book to at least know that there are alternative treatments available and have an idea of what could be expected from them.

Two common myths on alternative cancer treatments are that (1) if they offered anything worthwhile mainstream medicine would have picked up on it and incorporated it, and (2) that those who developed them are riffraff, snake oil salesmen and other uneducated or shady individuals.

The book does a very good job of dispelling both myths. It is very clear that the pharmaceutical industry has been interested only in treatments it can patent to protect its profits. This is not a disparaging statement and only reflects the reality that the pharmaceutical industry, like any other private industry, is in business for profit. With drug approval costs often exceeding $100 million, no company will invest that much unless their exclusive rights to produce and market a product are guaranteed.

Maybe the government could have stepped in and funded research on promising non-patentable or other alternative approaches, but it hasn’t. In fact, governmental agencies have consistently acted to protect pharmaceutical interests from outside competition by closing as many doors as they could on alternative ideas, no matter how promising they seemed.

As far as the developers of alternative cancer treatments, the list includes the likes of German physician Max Gerson, once described by Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer as “one of the most eminent medical geniuses in the history of medicine.”

The list also includes Houston’s own Stanislaw Burzinsky, who was a child prodigy earning PhD and MD degrees at the youngest age of anyone in the history of Poland. When he defected to America in 1970 he was immediately offered a research position at Baylor College of Medicine, but quickly fell out of favor when his research led him to discover a natural anti-cancer protein that, because it was natural, could not be patented.

Mentioned only briefly in Ms. Pierce’s book is two-time Nobel Prize winner Dr. Otto Warburg whose 1930s groundbreaking research led to the understanding that, unlike healthy cells, cancer cells produce energy by fermentation (somewhat like a fungus) and are able to survive only in acidic, oxygen-poor environments. Though Dr. Warburg’s findings were good enough to earn him two Nobel Prizes, they are still ignored today in mainstream medicine and cancer patients are often encouraged to eat sugary foods, though sugar is the Number One promoter of acidity in the body and is the only food cancer cells need to survive.

Dr. Warburg’s research is fundamental for many alternative cancer treatments. Building on this research, Italian “alternative” oncologist Dr. Carlo Simoncini is treating cancer today –
and documenting recoveries of terminal cancer patients – by injecting sodium bicarbonate, a natural non-toxic alkaline substance found in baking soda and Alka Seltzer. It appears that when the body’s environment is made alkaline enough, cancer cells simply cannot survive, while healthy cells are unharmed. If you wonder why something as plain as baking soda has not been used more widely if at all helpful, you may start by asking yourself how much it costs and who can profit from its sale. Read about Dr. Simoncini and his work here:

A natural supplement called Protocel, used for decades as a treatment for cancer and certain viral conditions, provides an excellent example of the state of many alternative cancer treatments today. The product’s developer was a chemist named James Sheridan, who at the time worked for Dow Chemical. In the 1930’s he must have been studying Dr. Warburg’s research on how cancer cells produce energy by fermentation, whereas healthy cells use a far more complex process called respiration.

Sheridan felt that by using a blend of certain natural ingredients he could interfere with the process of fermentation, leading cancer cells to lose energy and eventually die while leaving
healthy cells unharmed. His product immediately showed promise, but Sheridan’s main goal was to interest a pharmaceutical company in taking it over, or the government in funding
research on it.

Neither happened. Pharmaceutical companies were not interested because the product could not be patented, and the government just gave him the runaround until the product was
finally outlawed. Only two studies were performed, and one was an official National Cancer Institute (NCI) test tube study showing effectiveness against all strains of cancer – which,
incredibly, led to no further research. The second was a safety study in which increasing amounts of this product were injected in mice to find a dose that would begin to kill them.

However, the mice never died but the doses that were injected became so large they risked “exploding” from the sheer volume of the injections! Basically, this means Protocel is not toxic.

Today it is back on the market, sold over the internet as a dietary supplement and an antioxidant with no claims of therapeutic effects. If you Google it you will find dozens of stories of children and adults, many who had been sent home to die before they started taking this product. Some of the stories are very touching, and in some you see pictures of children at various stages of their illness. Incredibly some recovered and are living cancer-free today. Others died, but still outlived their prognosis by years and the parents felt blessed to have been given this extra time with their children.

Clearly there’s something there, but what exactly? Unfortunately the studies Sheridan fought for remain unfunded and unperformed. As a result, we can’t rate how truly effective this product is or understand its mode of action in the body.

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