Cancer - the principles of prevention and treatment

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I do not pretend to be a cancer expert, but I know of some fundamental principles which apply across the board and are relevant to the prevention and treatment of virtually all cancers.

Once a diagnosis of cancer has been given, this means that there will be trillions of cancer cells already established. For a tumour to be visible on a scan, there must be between a thousand million and a million million cells present. Anything that can be done to reduce this total load is going to be helpful. The standard conventional approach to cancer, i.e. surgery, radiotherapy, and possibly chemotherapy undoubtedly has its place. The problem is targeting treatment so that as much of the tumour is killed as possible with normal cells spared. In practice this is a very difficult balancing act.

However, there are other things that can be done over and above this which not only make these treatments more effective, but greatly reduce side-effects from such therapies. In my experience, and evidence from a large body of medical literature, these interventions very much improve chances of survival.

You may ask yourself why these additional therapies are not routinely available within the NHS. The answer is that the NHS is overwhelmed with cancer sufferers and is struggling to provide the three basic frontline modalities of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It simply does not have the capacity to do the rest. This is up to you, the patient.

The idea of this handout is to equip individuals with all the information they need in order to help themselves. There are marker tests which can be extremely helpful and give us an idea of which therapies are appropriate and how successful they are and these can be extremely helpful in monitoring treatment and progress. So, please do not miss the section External links at the bottom of this page.

The Underlying Biochemical Principles of Treatment

The fundamental principles behind these extra therapies are as follows:

  1. starve the cancer of its food supply;
  2. get rid of growth promoters;
  3. ensure excellent nutritional status with vitamins and minerals (to allow healing and repair);
  4. improve antioxidant status (to mop up free radicals created by the cancer treatments and limit side effects);
  5. sleep well (when healing and repair take place);
  6. do a good detox regime (to get rid of exogenous tumour initiators and growth promoters);
  7. check thyroid function (underactive thyroid is a major risk factor for cancer);
  8. exercise;
  9. use natural anticancer substances as suggested by appropriate tests;
  10. alkalinisation has been described as the poor man's cancer treatment. Western diets are a major risk factor for cancer and most people eating Western diets have a tendency to acidosis. See Acid-Alkali balance.
  11. monitor the effects of treatment.

Starve out the cancer cells

Cancers are evolutionarily primitive cells and can only survive on glucose. In this respect they are very much like yeast and rely entirely on anaerobic metabolism. Glucose is fermented in the absence of oxygen to produce energy. This is very inefficient and produces lactic acid. Indeed, this inefficient burning of glucose probably explains the cancer cachexia (weight loss) seen in advanced cases.

My guess is that a fermenting gut is also a risk factor for cancer because of production of endogenous toxins.

Normally animal and of course human cells get the vast majority of their energy from mitochondria. This is extremely efficient, mitochondria can use not just glucose, but also energy from fat and protein. All these uses require oxygen. The reason it is important to understand this is because mitochondria control cell division. If mitochondria are switched off, this control is lost and the cell turns into a cancerous cell. Indeed this may well be part of the mechanism by which cancer begins.

The difference between a cancer cell and a normal cell, therefore, is how it gets its energy. By substantially reducing sugar supply, one starves out the cancer cell. In this event, cancer cells up-grade the mechanism by which they absorb sugar, which is the same mechanism by which they absorb vitamin C and vitamin C is extremely toxic to cancer cells. So the first two key interventions are:

  1. Ketogenic diet. Cancers are evolutionary primitive cells and can only survive on glucose. Therefore their growth is encouraged by a high carbohydrate diet because all carbohydrates are broken down into monosaccharides such as glucose. Eat a ketogenic diet based on meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Foods such as grains, root vegetables, fruits and sugars are all high GI food and should be avoided. By doing this one starves the cancer cells of their fuel and slow their growth. Normal healthy cells can work very well on long chain, medium chain and short chain fatty acids from vegetable fibre. Sugar and starches are non-essential foods for normal metabolism (only essential for cancer cells). I thoroughly recommend the book "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek ( Link). Indeed the British Society of Integrated Oncologists recommends a ketogenic diet for all cancer patients.
  2. High Dose Vitamin C. When cancer cells run short of a glucose supply, they upgrade the mechanism by which glucose is absorbed into the cells. This same absorption mechanism also absorbs vitamin C. Vitamin C is highly toxic to cancer cells. Take vitamin C to bowel tolerance. The cheapest source is ascorbic acid, but if this is not tolerated then magnesium ascorbate can be used instead. All drinks and meals should be supplemented with one or two grams of vitamin C to get the total daily dose up to at least ten grams and ideally twenty or more grams a day. Because vitamin C has such a short half life in the blood, it needs to be given in lots of small doses throughout the day. Too much vitamin C causes loose bowel motion and if these doses are not tolerated then it might be worth considering injectable intravenous vitamin C. Humans, guinea pigs and fruit bats are the only mammals which cannot make their own vitamin C - they have to eat it. If one extrapolated from other mammals what our "normal" daily dose should be one would get to about 4 grams daily.

Get Rid of Growth Promoters

Growth promoters occur in Western cultures in at least four ways that I know about.

  1. Dairy products. Dairy products are meant for fast growing baby cows and dairy products contain growth promoters. These are naturally present in milk, but there may also be artificial growth promoters which are injected into cows to improve milk yields. I recommend you read "Your Life in Your Hands" by Professor Jane Plant ( link) who has shown that dairy products are a major cause of breast and prostate cancer. All dairy products are a problem for the same reasons including goat and sheep. Organic dairy products may avoid the synthetic growth promoters but they have natural growth promoters. Avoid these too.
  2. Insulin. Insulin is a growth promoter. Normally insulin is produced in response to high sugar levels and so doing the above low GI diet will reduce insulin levels. Insulin is also produced in response to stress - this is the primitive "fight or flight" response - it pumps glucose from the blood stream into cells so that they are ready for physical action. Excessive stress will therefore be a risk factor for cancer. We all know of cases of people whose cancer seems to have been initiated by a stressful event (such as a bereavement).
  3. Being overweight. Just carrying excessive adipose tissue results in higher levels of hormones, particularly oestrogen and this too is a growth promoter. Aim to lose excessive weight by doing a low GI diet (so reducing insulin) combined with exercise (see below) or sweating regimes (see below).
  4. Xenobiotics. Foreign chemicals, such as pesticides. Many of these, particularly organochlorines such as Lindane are oestrogen mimics. These are also growth promoters because they are oestrogen mimics. It is well worth measuring levels in fat (a very simple test to do) and if levels are raised then they can be got rid of by doing sweating regimes. Another test to look for chemicals is to do blood tests for DNA adducts This measures toxins stuck onto DNA and often gives clues as to what has caused the cancer in the first place as well as identifying growth promoters and possibly showing poor antioxidant status.

Nutritional Supplements

Because of modern agricultural practices, we are not recycling human manure back on to the land and therefore there is a net loss of trace elements from the soil and therefore lower levels in plants and animals, together with lower levels of vitamins and essential fatty acids. My view is that everybody should be supplementing all these micro-nutrients as a routine, as per my standard recommendations - see Nutritional Supplements

Improve Antioxidant Status

Most cancers are probably initiated by free radicals. These are highly reactive molecules with an unpaired electron so they "stick" readily onto almost anything and in doing so cause damage. Free radicals are inevitably produced as part of energy production and can be used by the immune system to kill bacteria and viruses. However too many are damaging and the body has a series of "antioxidants" which mop up the free radicals to prevent excessive damage. Low levels of superoxide dismutase (made from copper, manganese and zinc) and glutathione peroxidase (made from selenium) are major risk factors for cancer. There are many natural antioxidants in foods.

It is very common to find extremely poor antioxidant status in cancer patients, partly because having poor antioxidant status is a major risk factor for developing cancer in the first place, secondly because the three main therapies used to treat cancer, namely surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy produce increased loads of free radicals. Indeed the mechanisms by which radiotherapy and chemotherapy kill cancer cells are through the production of excessive free radicals. This is one of the ironies of these two treatments - they can create cancers as well cure them. But all these excessive free radicals further depletes anti-oxidants.

So improving antioxidant status not only greatly reduces one's chances of further tumours, but also greatly protects against the malign side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. At one stage there was concern that improving antioxidant status would block the beneficial effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but there is no evidence that this is indeed the case.

The three important frontline antioxidants, which in my view should be measured in every case are superoxide dismutase, co-enzyme Q10 and glutathione peroxidase. Please see SODase (superoxide dismutase) studies, Co-enzyme Q10 and Glutathione peroxidase These are present in microgram amounts, they will mop up excess electrons and pass them back to a second line of antioxidants such as vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin E, some of the B vitamins, lipoic acid, melatonin and many other such natural molecules, which then re-cycle the electron back to the ultimate repository of electrons, which is ascorbic acid. This makes vitamin C, of course, doubly important in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Vitamin D merits a special mention. Vitamin D is highly protective against cancer. The best source is sunshine - not so much that you burn (which causes free radical damage to skin) but enough to make you tan. When there is no sunshine take cholecalciferol at least 2,000 (two thousand) international units and up to 5,000iu daily (at this level of treatment there are no adverse effects on calcium levels). There is a clear relationship between sunshine exposure and risk of cancer, i.e. the more sunshine you can get without actually burning, the more you are protected from getting cancer.

See Antioxidants and Vitamin D

Sleep Well

It is during sleep that healing and repair takes place. Melatonin (the sleep hormone) is a powerful antioxidant (see below). See Sleep is vital for good health

Detoxification Regimes

When I do fat biopsies on patients (these are extremely easy to do, indeed much easier than a blood test and some of my patients do them on themselves!), I invariably find a chemical load which is made up of volatile organic compounds, pesticides such as organochlorines, organophosphates, fire retardants and other such persistent organic pollutants. All of these nasty chemicals may get stuck onto DNA and therefore they are all potential carcinogens, that is to say any one of them may trigger and cancer. Furthermore some of these chemicals are also growth promoters. Therefore it is my view that people should either be doing Far Infra Red sweating regimes to reduce this toxic load (see Detoxing - Far Infrared Sauna (FIRS)) or be taking regular exercise to sweat out or "boil off" this toxic load.

Doing fat biopsies and a DNA adducts often gives us a good clue as to which chemical, if any, is responsible for the cause of that persons cancer. For example, in smokers it is common to find nitrosamines and cadmium stuck on to DNA.

Thyroid Function

It is the thyroid gland that dictates the activity of the immune system. The immune system is responsible for cancer surveillance and an idle immune system will not do this effectively. An under active thyroid is a risk factor for cancer. To measure this one needs to measure blood levels of free T4, free T3 and TSH - see Thyroid profile: free T3, free T4 and TSH


This is helpful because it helps to reduce blood sugar levels (and so reduce insulin levels - see above) as well as causing one to sweat, so getting rid of xenobiotic toxins through sweat. Indeed this is probably part of the mechanism by which exercise protects one from getting cancer (see above). The key point about sweating is that it gets rid of the good things as well as the bad things. So rehydrate using a mix of all minerals not just "electrolytes" (which contains just sodium and potassium chloride).

Monitor the effects of treatment

Some tumours have tumour markers. The one best known is prostate specific antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer. But many tumours have similar markers which are very useful to monitor how effective treatment has been. The Doctors' Laboratory provide a comprehensive list of markers available at The Doctors' Laboratory

Related Tests

Related Articles

External links

  • Early detection of ovarian cancer - The Doctors' Laboratory offer a test allowing for the detection of ovarian cancer in women with a pelvic mass. You will find information about the test and a number of clinical studies on the website: CA125 + HE4=Risk Stratification and in particular, the page About HE4

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