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Aug 19th, 2004, 11:31 AM
Living on special borrowed time

IWAN WILLIAMS, news.scotsman.com (http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=960682004)

SINCE my diagnosis of cancer in November 2002, Iíve become interested in exploring complementary therapies but I am starting from a point of reasonable scepticism. I donít want to rush from one therapy to another - eating bananas one week, trying the latest cure from California the next. However, I am aware that there are more things we could be doing, not so much to cure cancer but to improve the quality of our everyday life.

What I liked about the Bristol Cancer Centre was the way it linked conventional treatment with other therapies. Its holistic approach made sense to me. I remember a doctor at the Beatson saying that there is no evidence diet has any effect at all on cancer. That is not true.

Bristol offers a two-day course and a five-day retreat. Itís quite expensive - the two-day course is £540, the five-day £900. The focus is as much on carers and supporters as people with cancer; that really appealed to us.

We arrived for the two-day programme on a Sunday evening in July. There was a basic get-to-know-you session to encourage us to voice our expectations of the weekend. Our group was quite small, just seven people.

The accommodation was fine but the atmosphere was wonderful; totally relaxed and unstressed. The food is completely vegan - salads, pasta, homemade bread, vegetable stews - and it is excellent.

The main change for us, following Bristol, is that we have gone vegan. Weíre not fanatical - itís vegan with cheating - but the main thing is that we have cut out dairy produce.

Humans are the only animals that drink the milk of another species. Milk is designed to encourage growth in young mammals. Their cell reproduction rate is very high. Cancer cells also reproduce enormously quickly so consuming food designed to encourage the kind of cell development we donít want makes no sense.

Itís been surprisingly easy; weíve had to learn how to prepare food differently.

Monday was spent learning about the Bristol approach and we talked to each other about our experiences with cancer; everybody had a horror story about their treatment at the hands of the NHS. One chap had been told he had a tumour over his mobile phone while he was standing in the supermarket.

On the Tuesday, there were one-to-one sessions with a doctor, nutritionist, counsellor, art therapist and healer. With the doctor, I spent a lot of time discussing how I manage pain. The nutritionist and I had a row about giving up red wine, one of lifeís pleasures. Mostly we were given helpful suggestions. One of the highlights was the session with the counsellor. She was wonderful. After we had spoken about my life, she suddenly said: "Alright, you have all this going for you, so why did you get ill?" It was a very good question.

That was when I first thought about the time in the 1990s when my life was in a mess. I felt for the first time at Bristol that my cancer has a cause. It could have been dealt with. It had been the big unanswered question - why did it happen? It might sound quite a harsh question, but it wasnít. Something really came together for me in that session. I had been very sceptical about the healing session but it was remarkable. The healer passed her hands over my body and I felt different, better.

I want to take these experiences further. I need a counsellor. I want to find someone I can speak to about things I canít talk to Alison about. Itís not fair to burden her. I want someone to put me back together. Iím still in bits, still off balance.

Itís more than 18 months since I was told - with all the usual caveats - that on average I could expect another 18 months. Even if you can say to yourself, as I did, "I donít believe in timetables", you still feel there is a deadline out there.

Iíve been reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche. He says that when it comes to thinking about death, start now. Donít leave it. Just accept it is going to happen.

Iíve never wanted to curse the universe. I wasnít angry about the initial cancer, although I am very angry about the fact it wasnít detected earlier.

So, no anger. Grief, yes. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by grief. Fear, at first, but not now.

The one thing I do get terribly upset about is that both my cats died in the last few months. They were very important to me and got me through the bad times; I refer to them as my spiritual advisers and that they saved my life, which isnít a joke. They lived with me for 16 years and were sisters. Carmen died first and Cleo was distraught. She developed this howl and got very weak.

The vet made noises about putting her down, but we said: "Sheíll go when sheís ready." I had Carmen cremated and put in a little urn to wait. On a nice day weíll take them both into the mountains and scatter them there. Alison says they are giving me one last gift and teaching me a very hard lesson.


THE Bristol Cancer Centre was founded in 1980 by Penny Brohn and Pat Pilkington, a vicarís wife. Penny, right, was in her early 30s and had three small children when cancer struck.

After struggling for emotional and spiritual support, Penny and Pat decided to provide it themselves.

The centre was initially run from Patís home, but growing demand after a BBC documentary led to it moving to its current premises in 1983. The building was opened by the Prince of Wales who became patron in 1997. The centre is the leading national holistic cancer care charity in Britain combining physical, emotional and spiritual therapies for cancer sufferers and their carers.

Penny Brohn died in 1999 after living with cancer for 20 years. Pat Pilkington is still actively involved with the centre. She was made an MBE last year.

A course to care for the carers as well as the cancer sufferers


I FOUND my experience of the Bristol Centre highly rewarding. I found the staff tremendously impressive; enormously calm and professional. They managed to be warm and compassionate, yet maintain a distance. The ratio of staff to clients was amazing - more than 1:1 - and with other people taking my needs and wants seriously for two and a half days, I had to as well. I had been paying lip service to the need to look after myself. At Bristol I began to understand what that actually meant. My sessions were separate from Iwanís so I was able to concentrate on me, yet be with Iwan at the same time.

For me, Bristol came at exactly the right time and I have made life changes since.

The main thing is going vegan. The food takes a little longer to prepare and I have to use recipe books, but now I stop work at 5:30pm to cook. The relaxation and fun of putting together these dishes is tremendous. After supper, I donít work; Iím getting my evenings back and Iíve promised myself I wonít work at weekends. Bristol has helped me prioritise.

The change of diet has helped me find a more balanced life. My energy levels are higher and my concentration better. "Nurturing" in the widest sense of the word was something I thought about a lot in Bristol. When we came back to Crieff, I found somebody to help me with the cleaning and somebody to cut the grass. Iíve managed to find an office in Crieff, which will help make the house less cluttered. I now make sure, at some stage each day, I do some relaxation and exercise.

There were tissue boxes everywhere in Bristol but most of the time was spent laughing. It gave a perspective on some of the dreadful things that happened, such as the appalling ways the medical profession had treated all of us.

Someone who impressed me hugely was Pat Pilkington, one of the founders of the centre, who spoke to us on the second day. That made me feel tremendously special. Bristol has remained close to its roots. It hasnít been franchised. Itís utterly personal, utterly professional. I havenít felt so well looked after since my mother died.

Aug 19th, 2004, 01:22 PM
Didn't read the article, but I will...thanks for the link!

Protein feeds cancer cells...that's one reason why an animal-free, raw and living cuisine is one of the most healing diets for cancer remedy.

Sep 1st, 2004, 11:39 AM
This is from www.bristolcancerhelp.org

Q. Why do you recommend a vegan diet? Should it always be organic?
A. The diet we recommend and offer on residential courses is the diet that research suggests is going to best support the body physically while dealing with cancer and itís treatment. If you eat a lot of things that the body finds it hard to digest, it takes away energy the body could better use to fight illness. Above all we want to help people to strengthen their bodies immune system and build up their vitamin and mineral army, so adding more fruit and vegetables into the diet is crucial. The Government recommends everyone should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day Ė but the Centre believes that this is not enough, it is the bare minimum people should be eating when well. If you are ill this should be much greater. We use only organic produce in the food offered at the Centre, but we recognise that this might not always be possible for people. Essentially the fresher the fruit and vegetables the better Ė the vitality of food is important because this means a higher vitamin and mineral content. Introducing more portions of fruit and vegetables into your diet is going to make a bigger difference to your health than switching your existing fruit and vegetable intake to the same amount grown organically.

Sep 1st, 2004, 08:16 PM
two excellent articles in that link.
i've heard of the bristol cancer centre.

thanks gv

Sep 2nd, 2004, 10:30 PM
My aunt had breast cancer, and started an almost vegan diet which was recommended by her doctor, although they said she should eat fish. she's on the mend now :)

Sep 3rd, 2004, 01:00 PM
My Mum died of lung cancer. She lived on a diet of sugar-loaded white coffee, coca cola, toast with butter and vegemite, soft boiled eggs and teddy bear biscuits...and cigarettes

Sep 3rd, 2004, 09:30 PM
how old were you when your mom passed away, banana? if u dont mind me asking.

Sep 5th, 2004, 02:08 AM
I was 19. Now I am 22

Sep 5th, 2004, 04:49 PM
My Mum died of lung cancer. She lived on a diet of sugar-loaded white coffee, coca cola, toast with butter and vegemite, soft boiled eggs and teddy bear biscuits...and cigarettes

sorry to hear that banana :(

Sep 5th, 2004, 10:45 PM
my mom died recently, and i am 18. its hard!

Sep 5th, 2004, 11:13 PM
I was diagnosed with the big "C" . I never identified it as "Cancer" to anyone and always said that I was dealing with a health concern when anyone asked me what "was wrong" with me. I refused to give the dis-ease the power of even naming it. I was alredy Vegan, and knew how to address this from my studies and working with terminally ill clients. I handled the health concern naturally myself with supplements and Holistic Care, while monitoring the condition carefully with a very supportive MD who is quite alternative and natural in his approach. I am 100% better in that area now! :) Nutrition and a positive frame of mind, the support of loving people and my belief that I was getting well and better with each moment is what sustained me.

Sep 6th, 2004, 12:13 PM
I am glad you got through it CC. You must be tough. And you are right - you are empowering it by labelling it.

Foxytina, I remember you saying you lost your mum recently. I know how awful it is. I still struggle without my mum and it was almost three years ago. If you feel you need to talk, just send me a PM.

Sep 7th, 2004, 02:12 AM
thanx banana. im sorry that u still struggle with it. how true it is that it never goes away!

Sep 8th, 2004, 10:32 AM
This is from The Nutritional Cancer Therapy Trust, when refering to their therapy.

All food must be organic, to ensure the maximum level of essential nutrients and to avoid the carcinogenic agrochemicals.

Known tumour inducing foods must be avoided - animal proteins, oils and fats and added salt. Those foods which contain the highest levels of known substances needed to eliminate the disease factors need to be used in preference to other less beneficial foods. Individual prescriptions are provided for each patient which list those foods which should be eaten and those to be avoided.

In summary the diets followed are Vegan organic diets with the emphasis on rice and other grains, fresh vegetables and fruits and small amounts of pulses.


Oct 10th, 2004, 04:08 PM
This is from The Observer (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/foodmonthly/story/0,9950,1320913,00.html)

Eat your veg. It could be the next best thing to giving up smoking

Eating the wrong foods could be responsible for up to 30 per cent of cancers, but there is growing belief that 'superfoods' are the key to preventing it. Can broccoli really be that good for you? Andrew Purvis finds out

Sunday October 10, 2004
The Observer

It's an image familiar to every TV viewer - Anthony Hicks, 58, real-life front man of the Government's Quit Smoking campaign, propped in a hospital bed with his voicebox removed, eyes sunken, skin the colour of tobacco smoke, croaking intermittently about plans to spend Christmas with his daughter. Ten days later, the caption tells us, Anthony is dead - killed by cancer of the lung and larynx, a compliant victim of his own smoking habit.
There is no ambiguity in the NHS message - and those of us who don't smoke breathe a sigh of relief (because we can). We walk to the kitchen, take a ready-made lasagne from the fridge, place it in the microwave; if we're feeling generous to ourselves, we might fry a fillet steak in a little butter, eat it (guiltily) with a plateful of oven chips and treat ourselves to a can of lager and a tub of chocolate chip ice cream.

Unwittingly, we are placing ourselves in the same high-risk category as Anthony - victims not of cigarette smoke but of our Western diet. In its World Cancer Report, published last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) quietly dropped the bombshell that 30 per cent of cancers in the West can be attributed to dietary factors - placing food second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer. If we all improved our diet overnight (dream on), 2.1 million lives a year could be saved. Instead of 20 million people worldwide suffering from cancer, the figure could be 14 million (and a further half of those could be avoided by also banning smoking). Of the 10 million new cases every year, three million could be prevented by eating wisely.

What's more, as Western-style diets take hold in developing countries, they too are at increased risk of cancer. The evidence, says Sara Hiom, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, is in various migration studies conducted with Japanese women, who are prone to far lower rates of breast cancer than those in the West. 'Within one generation of migrating to America,' Hiom explains, 'their breast cancer risk was that of the indigenous population of America.'

This and other environmental factors have put us in the grip of a global cancer epidemic. By 2020, new cases are expected to rise from 10 million to 15 million a year. Within 20 years, the number of people living with cancer is projected to increase from 20 million to 30 million. All this could be prevented, the WHO implies, by giving up our drip-feed of fast, processed and convenience foods which are high in fat, sugar and salt.

Even if we consume none of these, we cannot feel smug. As we unpack our organic boxes and make our Saturday-morning forays to farmers' markets in search of free-range poultry, low-fat ostrich steaks and wholemeal bread, another danger lurks in the drinks cabinet. After obesity (cited by Cancer Research UK as an 'absolutely cast-iron' cause of the illness), excess alcohol consumption - defined by the WHO as 'more than two units a day' - is the biggest risk factor in cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver and breast. Anthony Hicks, heavy smoker, RIP.

So there we were worrying about our children's heart disease, stroke and diabetes as a result of 'the obesity epidemic', when all along cancer was a cast-iron risk. But what can we feed our ill-fated progeny to prevent it?

In our unhealthy but strangely health-obsessed world, there is no shortage of suggestions. Broccoli is often cited by nutritionists and health writers as a kind of wonder vegetable because it contains vitamins A, C and E - a hat trick of antioxidants, compounds that 'scavenge' free radicals (oxygen particles that can damage body cells and possibly cause cancer). Butternut squash and sweet potato also score three out of three and, like most fruits and vegetables pigmented orange and yellow, are sources of beta-carotene - one of a group of antioxidants known as carotenoids. In fact, the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is found in green leafy vegetables among other things.

Another carotenoid with potential is lycopene, which is present in tomatoes. Some studies have suggested it may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Tomatoes contain vitamin A and vitamin C as well, making them a doubly valuable addition to the arsenal. If your children can't stand fresh tomatoes, though, don't worry: several studies have shown that the processing of tomatoes makes lycopene more readily available for the body to use, so ketchup, tomato sauce and pizza topping (which make up three-quarters of the lycopene intake of Americans) are just as likely to prevent cancer.

Red peppers are excellent for vitamins A and C, while selenium (a mineral) is present in many plants, including broccoli, beets, cabbage and garlic as well as nuts, offal, fish, eggs and poultry. A review study in 2001 reported that selenium, an essential trace element, is necessary for the functioning of an enzyme that protects against oxidative damage to cell structures. In animals, it reduced the frequency of transplanted tumours and may provide protection in the later stages of human cancer.

Several other plant compounds (phytochemicals) have shown promise in the fight against cancer, albeit in limited trials in the laboratory and in animals. Glucosinolates (from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and pak choi) confer various health benefits while indole-3-carbinole, another constituent of these vegetables, has been shown to prevent colon cancer in mouse models. Flavonoids are another promising group. Quercetin (found in apples, onions, tea and red wine) blocks the hormone activity in human prostate cancer cells, while allicin (the main ingredient in crushed garlic) has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of human cancer cells in the colon, endometrium and breast.

In May, a study by Professor Ian Johnson for the Institute of Food Research found that a substance called allyl-isothiocyanate (AITC) stops colon cancer cells dividing relentlessly - the mechanism that causes tumours. AITC - a breakdown compound of sinigrin (found in brassicas such as broccoli, mustard, cabbage, horseradish, cauliflower, kale and wasabi) - is produced when particular vegetables are chopped, chewed, cooked or digested. Unlike chemotherapy drugs, it appears to target tumour cells without damaging healthy cells.

Despite this growing body of research, the World Health Organisation offers no advice about specific plant foods in its 2003 report. It simply lists fruits and vegetables - generally - as one dietary factor that may decrease the risk of cancer of the oral cavity, stomach and colorectum. Eat plenty of these (as traditional hunter-gatherers did, consuming more than 800 different plant-based foods on a regular basis) and you may be protected. It is what is lacking in our food - the vitamins, minerals, fibre, phytochemicals and micro-nutrients in a plant-based diet - that counts.

But surely working out what we need to eat to boost our chances can't be rocket science. If we know there are lower incidences of cancer in certain parts of the world, such as Japan and rural China, we can monitor what those populations are eating and identify what it is that we are doing wrong.

At the Oxford University laboratories of Cancer Research UK, principal scientist Professor Tim Key is doing precisely that. 'All our work here - and cancer epidemiology everywhere - is based on that premise,' he says. 'The reason we bother doing our work is that cancer rates vary around the world and have also varied with time in some countries - so it's clearly not genetics that determine it but something about lifestyle. Diet is one of the top candidates on the list.'

With such a bleak epidemic looming, the subject is being researched with a vengeance. In one project, Epic (the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), scientists are analysing the food questionnaires of half a million people in 10 European countries to shed light on the links between diet and long-term health. The results are due in the next few years. Coordinated by the WHO and supported by the European Union, Epic is the largest such study ever undertaken - and Professor Tim Key is principal investigator of the Oxford cohort, a group of 65,000 human guinea pigs .

If anyone can help devise a cancer-busting diet, it is Professor Key - but his suggestions are conservative to say the least. The risk inherent in obesity is 'absolutely cast-iron and confirmed to be true', he says. 'For breast cancer in menopausal women in particular, obesity increases blood levels of oestrogen - and oestrogen is directly linked to breast cancer risk. The link with alcohol is also confirmed, so keep your weight down and don't drink too much.'

Eating lots of fruit and vegetables (as the WHO suggests) is 'only a probable', he says, 'and for no specific [plant] food is there convincing evidence that it's important'. Red meat is under 'serious investigation', he adds, because 'there is quite a lot of evidence that high intakes of meat - and it's stronger for processed and preserved meat than for fresh meat - may increase the risk of large bowel cancer. It's a hot topic of research.'

And what about boosting soya intake and cutting down on dairy products, like the rural Chinese who are less at risk from breast cancer? Of the first, he says the evidence 'has not been very strong' while the second is 'an interesting area'. I mention Professor Jane Plant's book Your Life in Your Hands, in which she puts forward a persuasive argument that giving up dairy produce helped her survive five diagnoses of breast cancer, but Professor Key is not convinced. 'In less developed countries where there isn't much food around,' he says, 'women start menstruating at a late age, they have several children and breastfeed them for a long time. These factors are all known to reduce breast cancer risk. Worldwide variation is not just to do with diet.'

It isn't the Holy Grail I am looking for, and I begin to wonder about all those cancer-busting carotenoids, flavonoids and phytochemicals cited by health writers and nutritionists. Isn't there a shred of truth in it? 'Everyone wants to know which fruits and vegetables they should be eating,' Professor Key acknowledges. 'Is it brassicas, is it garlic? None of these things are sorted out. Reports in the media and in scientific journals are usually based on a single study which may identify an interesting effect in a laboratory - but that doesn't mean it will work in people. The only scientifically based advice we can give is: 'Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and base your choice on the ones you like and can afford.'

It's good advice, but no good at all to those of us who are indecisive in the supermarket aisle (or who never look at price labels). But in California, naturally, the selection of nutritionally perfect fruit and veg has been perfected as a science. David Heber, MD, a scientist at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition in Los Angeles, has devised a formula to help consumers with the weekly shop. In his review article 'Vegetables, fruits and phytoestrogens in the prevention of disease' (published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine ), he divides foods into seven colour categories and suggests we eat one type from each group every day - red (tomatoes and related products), red/purple (berries, grapes, red wine), orange (carrots, mangoes, pumpkin), orange/yellow (cantaloupe, peaches, oranges, papaya), yellow/green (spinach, avocado, honeydew), green (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) and white/green (leeks, onion, garlic, chives).

Apart from the red wine (presumably less than two glasses a day), it is not so different from the superfoods programme outlined by Dr Steven Pratt, a Californian plastic surgeon, in his book, Superfoods: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. It recommends a diet of 14 colourful foods (such as broccoli, tomatoes, pumpkin, soy, spinach, wild salmon, oranges and black tea) containing the range of nutrients we need. Though mainly for weight loss, the diet 'can change the course of your biochemistry', Dr Pratt claims. 'These foods can help stop the cellular damage that can develop into disease,' he says - an optimism shared by Katherine Tallmadge of the British Dietetic Association. 'The reasoning sounds good,' she says. 'These are the kinds of healthy wholefoods we should be eating.'

The truth is, few of us will heed this advice, somehow believing that cancer will strike elsewhere - and in the distant future. We have organic muesli for breakfast, we eat up our greens (once or twice a week). Why should it happen to us? For one group of people, however, the link between cancer and diet is real. Already diagnosed, often with weeks or months to live, they will seize dietary advice with both hands because it may prevent secondary tumours occurring and brace their immune systems for the toxic onslaught of orthodox chemotherapy.

Michele Eve, 40, a mother of three living in Bristol, was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago this month and immediately went on a cancer-busting diet. She was not prepared to wait for the randomised, double-blind placebo trials of over-cautious scientists to tell her what she should be eating.

'I was in a bookshop,' she says, 'and the first book I picked up was about the Bristol Cancer Help Centre. I just feel so lucky that it's in my home town.'

While undergoing chemotherapy ('I was very ill indeed,' she says) and eventually surgery, Michele adopted the lifestyle changes recommended by the holistic charity. In addition to counselling and complementary therapies (including shiatsu, meditation and spiritual healing), these involved switching to a plant-based, wholefood diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, pulses and whole grains but very little meat and dairy produce. 'I gave up fish as well and went completely vegan,' she says, 'though that was my choice.'

Four years later (and just one year short of being medically 'clear'), Michele is completely well - something she attributes both to orthodox treatment and the Bristol approach. 'When they took the lump out, the specialist couldn't believe it,' she says. 'All the cancer cells had gone - which is very unusual. He seemed amazed, but I wasn't. I think the diet helped me fight the cancer and it was the one thing I could do something about immediately when everything else was up in the air. When given a 50:50 chance, you ask yourself "Which half am I going to be in, then?" You can make a choice.'

On a damp, doleful September day, I make my way to Bristol and find the reception area of the Bristol Cancer Help Centre suffused with natural light. There is something about the tall windows, high ceilings and minimalist decor of the former convent that makes it seem sunnier indoors than out - and when I peer into the relaxation room, where participants in a five-day residential course are sharing their experiences of cancer, I notice they are sitting not on polypropylene chairs (standard issue in institutions) but reclining sun loungers arranged like radiating spokes around a nutrition therapist.

'Would you like a drink?' asks Clare Ben jamin, who has invited me here to find out about Michele Eve's diet.

'A coffee would be nice,' I say, but the request is met with an apologetic smile and a tray of herbal teas.

At once I am reminded of the lack of consensus when it comes to treating cancer with diet. In the best-known and most controversial approach, Gerson therapy (invented by German-born doctor Max Gerson in the Thirties), coffee is the very thing that is believed to work - albeit administered by enema rather than bone-china cup. When combined with a strict nutritional regime - principally 13 glasses of fruit juice a day and injections of vitamin B12 and liver extract - coffee is said to dilate the bile ducts in the liver and help it excrete cancer-causing toxins.

In June, Prince Charles provoked a venomous attack by the medical establishment for suggesting Gerson therapy had worked for a cancer sufferer he knew and merited further research. 'I have no time at all for "alternative" therapy that places itself above the laws of evidence,' blustered Professor Michael Baum of University College London. 'The power of my authority comes with a knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years of active involvement in cancer. Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth.'

Professor Karol Sikora, Britain's most eminent cancer specialist, was equally damning of the diet, saying there was no rationale for it. 'Why would a coffee enema work?' he asked. 'It's popular at the higher end of the middle classes, partly because it's expensive and there's an element of religious mania to it. But the idea that huge amounts of vitamin C can cure you of cancer is wrong.'

Yet here at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre (where sufferers are urged to take supplements of 500-2,000mg of vitamin C a day, in addition to seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables), Professor Sikora is an ally. Visit the centre's website and there he is in his lilac shirt, clashing tie and serious spectacles, saying: 'Bristol represents the gold standard for complementary care in cancer.' Climbing the stairs, I pause on the landing beneath a portrait of HRH, the centre's patron. Somehow, the Bristol Approach satisfies both sides in a polarised and very angry debate. When I ask even the most conservative cancer specialists about the centre's dietary advice, nobody is prepared to knock it.

'Well, we're not exactly making people eat live lizards,' says Jane Sen, the professional chef and cookery writer who helped devise the Bristol guidelines. Looking at our lunch menu, chalked on a blackboard in the award-winning restaurant (the centre was named Caterer of the Year in 2000 by BBC Radio 4's Food programme), I can see what she means. I'm not a great fan of soybean curd, but Malay-spiced tofu with aubergine, mustard-seed rice, sesame stir-fried broccoli, red pepper, spinach and sprout salad doesn't sound bad, even when lightly drizzled with peanut vinaigrette. I ask Jane Sen what is so cancer-busting about it.

'The colour is important,' she insists, 'because a colourful plateful [green broccoli, bright red peppers] means you are eating a variety of ingredients and getting all the plant nutrients you need. Make sure you have something raw in every meal [like the shredded spinach in this one] because raw food still has all its vital energy.' Sprouting seeds should be consumed three times a week, she says, because they are 'the freshest things you can eat', with a raised nutritional value. 'Think of all the energy needed for a tiny thing like that to grow to such a height.'

Somehow, it sounds right - but it's hardly Professor Baum's kind of science. What I am after is a forensic breakdown of the meal's active ingredients. How does each one fight or prevent cancer - and are any of the alleged benefits scientifically plausible? In its factsheet 'The scientific basis for the Bristol approach to cancer care', the centre offers a few clues. Soya products (such as the Malay-spiced tofu I am eating) are listed along with six other foods and micro-nutrients that are 'known to be actively beneficial in cancer prevention and reduced recurrence': they are cruciferous vegetables (such as broc coli), tomatoes, onions, garlic, omega-3 fish oils and the mineral selenium.

However, when I run this list past Liz Butler, the nutritional therapist at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, she is more circumspect than the promotional literature. 'Tomatoes are a source of lycopene,' she says, 'but lycopene is not a magic bullet like a drug. There has to be a balance of things in the diet; if you look at one antioxidant in isolation, you're just messing about.' It's the range and variety of micro-nutrients that counts, she explains, and the way these compounds work 'synergistically'. In one study conducted for the Institute of Food Research, due to be published shortly, anti-cancer agents were found to be up to 13 times more effective when several foods in a wholefood diet were combined.

The best approach, say Bristol nutritionists, is to eat lots of plant foods with known benefits for general health (not just those that may protect against cancer), with an emphasis on 'adding foods to the diet' rather than subtracting them - the opposite principle to most diets.

One controversial addition is supplements in capsule form, since most experts say a balanced diet delivers all the vitamins and minerals we need, and the approach has even been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Beta-carotene supplements (which are recommended on the Bristol programme) slightly increased the risks of recurrence in a trial involving people with lung cancer, and another study showed that high vitamin C intake interfered with apoptosis - the natural cell death that stops tumours occurring. 'We recommend supplements because people who are ill, fatigued or busy may not get an ideal diet every day,' Liz Butler explains. 'There is also evidence that minerals in crops are declining due to intensive farming.'

Cancer sufferers are also advised to cut down on foods 'associated with an increased risk of cancer'. These include red meat, dairy products, smoked and salt-cured foods, refined sugars, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol and table salt. Game and poultry should be organic; fish should be non-farmed and from deep unpolluted waters, and oily fish should be small varieties such as sardines and pilchards which carry fewer contaminants. Despite such rigours, hundreds of people passing through the Bristol centre say they have benefited from the guidelines while on courses - and 92 per cent continue to follow them at home.

So, does the Bristol approach - and Jane Sen's diet - stand up to scientific scrutiny? The only study that has ever looked at the outcome of Bristol patients compared to others (published in the Lancet in September 1990) concluded that women with breast cancer who had attended the centre fared worse - though campaigners and scientists later argued that the study was flawed. When I ask if the centre keeps its own records of recovery and mortality rates, the answer is no. However, yet another supportive clarion call comes from Professor Karol Sikura. Patients on the Bristol programme show fewer side effects during chemotherapy, he says - an idea that comes as no surprise to nutritional therapist Liz Butler. 'The rationale behind everything we do is restoring people's biochemical balance,' she says. 'Then, their immune system is running well and they benefit more from their conventional medical treatment.'

In the fight against cancer, then, the message is clear: legitimate science is leading us inexorably towards a vegan diet. Last year, the WHO made its statement about fruit and vegetables. In March, the Food Standards Agency published the results of research it had funded into the link between colorectal cancer and red meat. 'The results support other published studies showing that higher levels of red meat consumption increase the risk,' it concluded.

With dairy products, too, there is mounting evidence that avoiding them may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Though cautious about Professor Jane Plant's reasoning in Your Life in Your Hands (in which she attributes her own recovery to abstinence), Professor Tim Key at the Epic project confirms that part of her argument is correct. 'It relates to a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (or IGF-1),' he says, 'and there is some evidence that if you eat more dairy products, blood levels of this hormone go up. There is also some evidence that women with high blood levels of this hormone are more likely to get breast cancer. So that is quite a tantalising story.'

Three months ago, the Lancet concluded that there probably was an association between animal products and some forms of cancer and further studies will be published soon, Professor Key reports. 'In fact, we've been working on that here and have shown that vegans have low levels of this hormone - and they don't eat any dairy products.' Yet, in his ruthlessly reductionist way, the principal investigator for Epic-Oxford says the link between dairy products and cancer is 'not an established fact'. In terms of advising the public, he concludes, 'the truth is that we don't know. Some studies have shown the reverse. However, if people want to take a gamble and say, "I'll give up dairy products because it might turn out to be true", fair enough.'

It doesn't sound like a gamble to me.

Clare Benjamin from Bristol Cancer Help Centre will be doing a talk at the Bristol Vegan Fayre on 30th October 2004.


I was just going to post the link but didn't want to loose the article in the future

Oct 10th, 2004, 04:43 PM
This is a wonderful article, it's just the ticket!
Could be just the sort of 'breakthrough' that's needed!

Oct 10th, 2004, 08:48 PM
That was the article with the bit about water (in a sidebar I think it was).

I liked that article too but of course the rest of the magazine was full of the usual instructions for preparing animal parts for human consumption. Though actually I thought the Hugh Fearnley-Wittingthing article in there also made some valid points about intensive farming although it wasn't exactly a vegan perspective :eek:

Oct 10th, 2004, 09:02 PM
don't get me started on Hugh F-W.... :rolleyes:

celtic rose
Oct 11th, 2004, 11:06 AM
This is from The Observer (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/foodmonthly/story/0,9950,1320913,00.html)

Eat your veg. It could be the next best thing to giving up smoking

Eating the wrong foods could be responsible for up to 30 per cent of cancers, but there is growing belief that 'superfoods' are the key to preventing it. Can broccoli really be that good for you? Andrew Purvis finds out

Sunday October 10, 2004
The Observer

In its World Cancer Report, published last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) quietly dropped the bombshell that 30 per cent of cancers in the West can be attributed to dietary factors - placing food second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer. If we all improved our diet overnight (dream on), 2.1 million lives a year could be saved.

I read that articule yesterday and was shocked to find that diet is the second largest preventable cause of cancer.
Hooray for the Observer, and I hope many more people are shocked enough to take action and reduce if not eliminate animals from their diet.

May 30th, 2005, 06:46 PM
Team plans a walk to help mum fight cancer

Kerry McQueeney, www.croydonguardian.co.uk (http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/localnews/display.var.600877.0.team_plans_a_walk_to_help_mum _fight_cancer.php) , 30/05/05

Brave mum Michelle Price has been fighting a four-year battle with cancer but with the help of her seven-year-old son and his football team mates, she is hoping to beat the disease once and for all.

Young players from the Selsdon Eagles football club and their parents will be taking part in a five-mile sponsored walk to raise £6,000 to enable Michelle to have treatment at an alternative health centre in the Netherlands.

Michelle, 35, has had cancer in both breasts and is now living with bone cancer on her spine, right shoulder, neck, rib and pelvis. She has had a mastectomy, undergone months of chemotherapy and had her ovaries removed in a bid to stop the cancer advancing.

"I have treatment now to stop my body from producing oestrogen, because my cancer is hormone-based, and have had my ovaries removed, which means I am effectively going through the menopause."

However, since her diagnosis the determined mum-of-two has embarked on a radical lifestyle change which, she says, has improved her health. Following a strict vegan diet, using holistic therapy and having regular reiki healing sessions are all now a big part of Michelle's life.

She added: "I've become my own doctor and I've really noticed a difference."

l The Selsdon Eagles team and their parents will be taking part in the five-mile sponsored walk in Lloyd Park where the team meets every Tuesday to practise on June 11. To sponsor them, call Michelle on 07747 783273.

Jun 19th, 2005, 09:12 PM
The treatment of cancer sufferers at Bristol Cancer Help Centre (www.bristolcancerhelp.org) is to be the subject of a new tv doc.

Living with cancer, a three part programme, narrated by vegan Martin Shaw follows the journey of 6 people from all over the country as they gather at the centre for a week long course.

The centre recommends a vegan diet on its courses.

The Bristol Cancer Help Centre who are celebrating their 25th year are special guests at the Bristol Vegan Fayre 2005. (http://veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3294)

The first episode will be broadcast on Monday July 4th at 11pm on ITV1.

Jun 20th, 2005, 07:40 AM
Ive forwarded this link to my friend who has a history of breast cancer in the family and she consumes approx, 4 pints of dairy milk in a week!!!!!

Jun 20th, 2005, 08:21 AM
Really great that the http://www.bristolcancerhelp.org/ is there, and that help extends to a vegan diet, and in my view the reiki healing is also important. I wish everyone well, healthy and happy. :)

Jun 27th, 2006, 07:34 PM
Husband, wife and even family dog defy odds to survive cancer.

Read more here. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=390893&in_page_id=1770&ct=5) :D

Jun 27th, 2006, 09:47 PM
It is a good advert for veganism but i would rather people became vegan cos they care about animals not just cos they care about their own health :mad: