Cancer is a disease most dreaded by many people, generally because so little is known about it. No one admits to knowing the cause of cancer, and the American Cancer Society tells us that if we send more money, the cure will soon be found. President Nixon’s well intended war on cancer, now many years after its inception, has hardly won a battle. Yet the news reports are filled with new cases of cancer, such as the cluster of leukemia in school children in Rutherford, New Jersey, or in asbestos workers, etc. Reporters take us into cancer treatment centers and inspire us with huge powerful looking machines and new techniques and drugs that are always proclaimed as the new hope. But what is the record?
In 1963 the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that surgical treatment of breast cancer at John’s Hopkins Hospital resulted in a five year survival rate for radical mastectomy of 52% and a ten-year survival rate of 33%. They further reported that there was a surprising uniformity of long-term end results despite widely differing therapeutic techniques. And they claimed that there was only a “slight improvement” in the survival rate after treatment. A later study showed that in patients with breast cancer (moderate degree) a ten year survival rate of 40% could be expected for untreated persons. This is, in fact, superior to the ten-year, 33% survival rate reported after surgery at John’s Hopkins.
Men with cancer of the prostate fare just as well without surgery. A study reported in 1972 showed that of 148 elderly men with prostate cancer and undergoing no treatment, there were no cancer deaths and only 6.8% of the patients showed any advancing of the cancer. This rate was regarded as equal to the complication rate for another group that was treated with surgery and estrogen. In other words, there was no benefit from treatment, especially surgery, in reducing death rates in either breast cancer in women, or prostate cancer in men. Unfortunately, modern medicine has failed to grasp a full understanding of what cancer really is, despite the fact that research has given us some very important clues.
You have probably heard that cancer is not contagious. You can be near cancer, you can touch a tumor, you can live with people who have cancer and you will never “catch” it. Cancer cells have been injected into people, tumors have been transplanted and healthy persons promptly rejected the cancer. The body savagely attacks cancer and destroys it. Even persons who have cancer can defend against it, but the catch is that their defense is limited. Depending on the number of cancer cells injected, the cancer would become established in from 11% to 86% of patients with terminal cancer. I repeat, healthy volunteers had a very effective defense against cancer; their bodies attacked the cancer cells with white blood cells, and with antibodies. For this reason the researchers concluded that in cancer patients, there is a defective defense mechanism. A person develops cancer only when the body cannot protect itself against it.
Many people develop more than one cancer at one time; some even have three, four, or five independent cancers. One study showed that after treatment for leukemia in children, some children develop Hodgkin’s Disease (cancer of the lymph nodes) possibly because the treatments, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can cause cancer.
Cancer is a disease of impaired immunity to a type of cell that is usually very easily killed by your body, but defense against other organisms fails to. Very few persons die from cancer. In over 50% of cancer deaths, the cause of death is an overwhelming secondary problem.This secondary problem is often pneumonia caused by gram negative bacilli or by a fungus, organisms that are with us at all times, but only overwhelm us when our defenses fail.
When organs are transplanted, immune ability is deliberately sabotaged to prevent the body from attacking the outside organ. If the body attacks a new organ, it will be rejected. Well, in persons receiving this immuno-suppressive therapy there is a 10,000 increased chance of developing cancer, clearly showing how closely defense against cancer is linked to other defenses, such as defense against new tissue, bacteria, and fungus. People do not die from cancer, but usually succumb to secondary problems, and often to blood loss if major blood vessels are cut, and sometimes to general exhaustion.
The thymus is a small gland located in your chest just behind the breast bone. It was thought to be the gland of childhood because it became smaller into adulthood. This “insignificant” gland is being studied more closely as it appears to be the key to your body’s defense against infection and especially cancer. In the thymus, the white blood cells ( your body’s Marine Corps) undergo unknown modification which changes them into cancer and bacteria killing cells. Before these white blood cells reach the thymus they become efficient destroyers of outside cells.
Persons who have diseased thymus are known to have a greatly increased chance of cancer. Hodgkin’s Disease is postulated as a disease “due to thymic dysfunction” because of the poor function of the thymus found in patients with Hodgkin’s Disease and possible benefit is cautiously suggested from the implantation of thymic tissue.
An animal study showed that the thymus and other lymph tissue became exhausted during the course of cancer, and human studies have even pinpointed the tissues of the thymus that fail during cancer.
This has been an overly brief account of the role of your defense against cancer, but now I pose the question: What can we do to protect ourselves and our thymus controlled defense against cancer?
First, keep in mind that the thymus is a lymph tissue, like the lymph glands in your neck and your tonsils and as a lymphoid tissue it is very susceptible to stress and is likely to shrink and regrow during emotional stress, infection, bodily injury, surgery and nutritional deficiency.
Any type of stress causes the adrenal glands to produce large amounts of cortisone and the more powerful hydro-cortisone. These hormones allow your body to convert protein into glucose so that you might better deal with the stress. Among the first proteins to be converted to glucose are those of the lymph and especially the thymus glands, but protein from all over your body is converted to glucose as long as the stress continues. One vitamin, especially pantothenic acid, protects the thymus from shrinking away.
Deficiencies of pyridoxine (B6) and of zinc can cause the thymus to malfunction with a resultant loss of immune defense ability to fight cancer. However, don’t limit your nutritional adequacy to just these three nutrients because vitamins are necessary for proper defense and their role in maintaining the health of the thymus may not be clear yet. A diet adequate in all vitamins, minerals and amino acids (protein), primarily from natural sources, cannot be overstressed for a healthy person, let alone a person with cancer.
Pantothenic acid and Vitamin B6 are found abundantly in foods that generally supply the B complex. Especially valuable sources include: wheat germ, rice polishings, brewer’s yeast, legumes,whole grains generally and organ meats. It must be remembered that the B complex of vitamins can be synthesized by intestinal bacteria so that any food supplying vegetable fiber or milk sugar (lactose) can contribute to pantothenic acid and Vitamin B6 intake.
Zinc is common to many foods, especially so to oysters, but also to whole grains, legumes and nuts. Zinc in animal products is readily. available, but that from vegetable sources can be chemically combined with phytates and may be insoluable in the digestive tract. This problem is avoidable if whole grains, rich in zinc, are yeast fermented for at east two hours before cooking. The action of the yeast breaks down the phytate and makes the minerals, zinc and others, available.