Tut-tut, CRUK!

CRUK stands for Cancer Research UK, and it’s a widely known charity with shops in many High Streets all over the land. I have mixed feelings about its negative attitude towards alternative therapies, but then, as a semi-official body, it obviously has to toe the conventional line of cancer medicine. And that’s a pity, because medicine is supposed to be a science, and the motive force of any kind of worthwhile science should be curiosity, the quality Einstein warned us never to lose, the kind of unbiased sharp curiosity that asks “What if…?” and doesn’t tire of looking for an answer. In view of the dismal global cancer statistics, any promising alternative approach should be researched and tested, instead of dismissed sight unseen. (Having myself recovered from Stage 4 metastasized malignant melanoma 35 years ago on a nutrition-based alternative therapy, I know what I am talking about. But that’s another story.)

However, right now what I object to is CRUK’s choice of slogans. To put it mildly, they are inept. “Against breast cancer” is one of them, combined with a pink ribbon to wear on your lapel. Against, sure —- is anybody for it? You might just as well be “Against climate change” or “Against knife crime” for all the good it’ll do. The other daft slogan invites us to “Beat cancer sooner”. Sooner than what? Is there a deadline for the ultimate victory? Based on what? Why don’t they tell us?  And that’s not all: the imagery used on some posters is also worrying. I remember with distaste a photo of a scientist in a white coat  intently gazing into a microscope in his laboratory, while next to him stands a woman in an overcoat, holding an armful of second-hand clothes presumably donated to the charity. Not exactly hygienic, to say the least, but at last  something real to be against.

However, what preoccupies me at the moment is what I heard recently in a radio news bulletin, namely that according to some researchers the growing incidence of male breast cancer might be linked to more men using deodorants and antiperspirants. Of course  women have been using the same products for a long time and yes, there is plenty of breast cancer among the female population, so that’s worth pondering.  After all, deodorants are applied to the underarm area which is full of lymph nodes, so that anything toxic is promptly absorbed, so near to the sensitive breast tissue. This was truly alarming.  I immediately moved to CRUK’s web page and found, among many things, the following: “2006-03-10-little-scientific-link-between-deodorant-and-cancer-says-cancer-research-uk”. The inveterate researcher in me wanted more details – how “little” is that scientific link, for instance? who funded the research? did the researchers have any connection to the cosmetics industry? – but when I found another link, promising information on “causes-of-cancer/cosmetics-and-toiletries#” and clicked on it, up came the reply:  “Sorry – the page you are looking for can’t be found.”  That seemed odd. I would have expected CRUK, recipient of huge donations and great public support, to be better organised. Or maybe somebody wasn’t looking very hard for the answer?

Undeterred, I went over to “http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/”, only to be fobbed off with “This page can’t be displayed.” Really? Well then, where on earth can a bona fide interested party get some reliable information about a topic that concerns us all?

Clearly, not from the obvious source. I have long felt that acquiring knowledge must be a grassroots effort, largely individual, but hopefully becoming a spontaneous group effort, so that the more of us ask the right questions, the greater the chance of getting the right answers.

Sorry, CRUK, the way things are at present,  I am not impressed. In return, don’t be surprised if I stonily ignore your innumerable demands for donations.









Some Thoughts on Health and Money

At a time when the gap between the super-rich and the poor is getting dangerously wide, it’s good to hear that Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook and his wife are giving $3bn  to medical research over the next ten years, to “cure, prevent or manage all diseases” in their children’s lifetime. It’s a nice gesture,  suggesting that perhaps capitalism has a more acceptable face, too, yet after a few moments of feeling nice about it,  I begin to experience some doubts.

It’s not just that $3bn sounds less impressive if set against, for instance,  the $6bn to be spent over five years by the British Wellcome Trust; it’s the grandiose aim of the donation that bothers me. All diseases? Is there anyone who can even begin to list them? Another generous billionaire, Bill Gates, has been spending billions over 15 years on trying – and failing – to wipe out nothing more than malaria or polio, never mind the whole blooming lot. Surely Mr Zuckerberg (German for Sugar Mountain) should think up a less ambitious project to support?

And while I am in the mood for cutting things down to manageable sizes, allow me to jump on my hobby-horse whose name is prevention, the poor relation of the cure and management of disease. “Prevention is not sexy,” says a disillusioned doctor friend of mine, “so no-one is taking it seriously.” And yet and yet the evidence is piling up to show that an alarming lot of our diseases are caused by ourselves out of sheer ignorance, or as a result of having poisoned the world which now, in turn, is poisoning us. There is nothing new about this: poor lifestyle, suicidal diets, obesity, too much alcohol, stress & co. add up to a litany piously recited by official voices, but there is no official action to rein in the misbehaviour of the food industry, to name only one major culprit. Cynics claim that Big Food is in cahoots with Big Pharma: if you consume enough processed stuff, you are bound to end up with a fistful of prescriptions for the rest of your life. Elementary, my dear Watson.

Maybe so. But what’s more alarming, because less obvious, is the piecemeal emergence of new health hazards. For instance we’ve just been told that dementia has overtaken heart disease as the biggest cause of death in England and Wales, a staggering development – how come, what has changed to cause this rise? The next day a newspaper report provided a possible answer. According to some researchers, particulate matter, typically released by diesel engines, can enter human brains, suggesting that there is a link between traffic pollution and dementia. Magnetite, a by-product of traffic pollution, has been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, and there’s evidence that people living in areas with high levels of airborne pollution are more likely to get the disease. Ironically, diesel has been promoted for years now as being less harmful to health  than petrol…

Another example of the hidden link between innovation and health damage cropped up some years ago, when a Europe-wide research programme tried to establish the cause of poor sperm production by otherwise healthy males. In the end the men with the best sperm production, both in quantity and quality, turned out to be Danish organic farmers, namely men who never worked with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or anything else ending with -cides; nor did they eat food treated with those same agri-poisons, which were hailed as the essential tools of modern farming, leading to bigger yields and healthier plants.  Since then the popularity of organic foods, guaranteed to be poison-free, has grown enormously, but it’s still a minority trend. As far as the manufacturers of agricultural chemicals are concerned, they keep producing ever stronger poisons, as  weeds and pests adapt sufficiently  to the current range to survive them. Never mind the humans who are the last link in the toxic food chain.

We’ve made a real mess of things, and surely trying to undo the damage and prevent further disasters should have absolute priority in medicine. But it hasn’t. Perhaps it never had. I recall a cartoon, used many years ago  by that great medical maverick Denis Burkitt, whenever he gave a talk on the need for prevention. The cartoon showed an overflowing hand basin with both taps full on, and two doctors in white coats busy mopping up the flooded floor, but not turning off the taps. “You get paid more for mopping up,” was Burkitt’s devastating comment.

Despite all this, I hope Mr Zuckerberg’s project will do some good in the hellishly difficult area of health in our not so brave new world.





Include Me Out

“Join the Rebellion!” is the eye-catching motto on the posters I’ve been noticing recently in London, but the message is weakened by the accompanying images of some obviously respectable  middle-class men and women who are supposed to be its intrepid heroes. Ah, but the aim of this rebellion is not to overthrow the Government or abolish the House of Lords overnight: it tells us to su2c, namely Stand Up to Cancer and “kick it off its perch”. Now that’s  a gem of a mixed metaphor; try as I may, I can’t picture that most dreaded disease in any shape that would enable it to sit on a perch, like a parakeet or, more appropriately, a vulture. Besides, has cancer become a global epidemic, which is how the WHO officially described it two years ago, because until now we haven’t stood up to it? We are not told.

However, we are told  how to become heroes of the rebellion. “Join us, pledge your support. Fundraise however the hell you want. As long as it’s raising money, you are one of us,” is the message on the new movement’s website, and its all-round permisssiveness stops me in my tracks, for stealing an old lady’s handbag  or emptying the collection box of my local church when nobody is looking would  certainly raise money, but would su2c approve of it? Luckily there are less problematic ways to produce cash: “You could get sponsored to wrestle a crocodile”, is one official suggestion. (Not kidding.)

Well,  it’s all about raising funds “for kickass ground breaking translational research”, whatever that means, and so we are directed to the Shop to buy t-shirts, various accessories and fundraising kits, all emblazoned with revolutionary mottoes. The general impression is that of an online razzmatazz, an over-the-top commercial promotion, which almost makes you forget what it is in aid of.

Of course fundraising for medical research is essential. Without the public’s willingness to donate, the £650 million cancer research unit of the Francis Crick Institute, the biggest medical research facility in Europe, wouldn’t have opened its doors in August this year. It’s just the methods of the cancer charities, mainly of the mighty  Cancer Research UK, that make me wonder. Do those in charge underestimate the intelligence of the public, or overestimate their own?

Take CRUK’s campaign, urging us to wear pink ribbons, in aid of “Against Breast Cancer”. Eh? Is there anyone in favour of it? Never mind, we are asked to go on sponsored walks, donate unwanted clothes, shoes, perfumes and CD’s,  run coffee mornings and do whatever else will bring in funds, “to beat cancer sooner”. Sooner than when? Every year 330,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in this country. Is there any research being done into the causes of this scourge which certainly doesn’t come from outer space but is produced much nearer home? For example, has anyone looked into the composition of the most popular antiperspirants, applied to an area full of lymph glands directly connected to the breasts? It is said that since more and more men have started using these products, the incidence of male breast cancers  has grown considerably, surely an indicator of toxic chemicals rubbed into a sensitive area of the body. As far as I know, this area is not explored. Altogether, prevention seems to be off the menu.

I should declare an interest. Thirty-three years ago, in 1983,  I recovered from Stage 4 metastasized malignant melanoma on the alternative nutrition-based Gerson therapy, after orthodox oncology could do nothing for me. That experience has taught me to ask the right questions about cancer, and to see how sadly we fail to hear and accept the right answers. Any doctor who tries to treat cancer by other than the  officially sanctioned trinity of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, risks getting into deep trouble, even though the accepted methods don’t perform particularly well. But that’s another story.

Fortunately  in a few medical centres researchers are already mooting the idea that perhaps instead of concentrating on the eradication or killing of the tumour it might be better to build up the patient’s depleted immune system, so that it can fight and, hopefully, defeat the malignant process. That’s the way my near-terminal cancer was cured, not just put into remission. That’s the way of the future.

But meanwhile I am not going to su2c, as the posters urge me to do. And when it comes to frantic fundraising in truly questionable taste (“Whip up boob-shaped cup cakes” is one suggestion for coffee-morning hostesses), I won’t  join in.  In Churchill’s memorable phrase, “include me out.” And, by the way, I am not going to wrestle a crocodile, either.