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Cancer Yesterday and Today

By Greg Samples


Originally published in Everything Knoxville in February, 2015

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in America, behind only heart disease. Overall, cancer rates worldwide follow a clear pattern of being higher in western, developed nations and lower in less developed countries, with the highest rate in the world being in Denmark, and the lowest in Niger. This implies that cancer is not a disease of deficiency, but of excess. Various theories about the cause of cancer include genetics, chemicals, viruses, hormones, sunlight, tobacco, radiation, and stress. One factor that is widely accepted today is diet.

Eating patterns have changed dramatically in the last century. Since 1920, the consumption of certain foods in the United States has altered American’s physical makeup and their psyche. Per capita consumption of meat, poultry, dairy, sugar, tropical foods and artificial additives have increased substantially. In addition, chemical and vibrational toxins absorbed from various non-food sources are at unprecedented levels. At the same time the consumption of whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit has decreased considerably. How has this affected the nation’s health? Cancer rates were 1 in 50 in 1910, 1 in 25 by 1950, and today 1 in 3 for women, 1 in 2 for men.

Conventional medicine directs cancer patients toward one or more of three broad categories: surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Each of these have developed numerous subtypes designed to be more effective against specific types of cancer and also to reduce side-effects. Alternative treatments are plentiful as well. Sometimes, it is necessary to leave the country to utilize alternative approaches, with Europe or Mexico being the most common destinations. Anecdotal evidence abounds that diet and lifestyle changes have been successfully utilized. The most famous example occurred in the 1980s, when Dr. Anthony Sattilaro’s story of reversing his prostate cancer with diet was published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Regardless of the many theories about the cause of cancer, and the effectiveness of conventional treatments, one thing is certain. Neither surgery, chemotherapy, nor radiation address the issue of what caused the cancer originally. This fact should prompt even the recovered cancer survivor to consider transforming their lifestyle into one that provides a better prospect for the future. All plant foods, but especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that are thought to inhibit the metabolism of some carcinogens. Of course, whole grains, legumes, and organically grown foods support general health as well.

Life in the 21st century has scores of advantages over the past. However, the abundance of food choices may not be an advantage. Choosing food that supports your health may be the most important aspect of your life to exercise sound judgment.

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