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The Real Reason the Cancer Industry Never Talks About Prevention

June 17, 2011 | 92,401 views

In the video above Robyn O'Brien shares her personal story and how it inspired her to become a Real Food evangelist. Her journey started when one of her children had a dangerous allergic reaction to a "typical" breakfast, and unfolded into discovering one reason why the United States may have the highest cancer rate in the world.

Oncologists have long been using crude weapons to fight cancer -- cut out tumors or use chemotherapy that kills good cells as well as bad ones. Drug companies say that new cancer drugs will change this -- for a price. Last year Gleevec grossed $4.3 billion, Herceptin made $6 billion and Avastin $7.4 billion.

Cancer drugs are often horribly expensive. Last year biotech drugs accounted for 70 percent of the increase in pharmaceutical costs in America. In general, cancer plays a huge role in raising costs. America's National Institutes of Health predicts that spending on all cancer treatment will rise to $158 billion in 2020 -- or, if drugs become pricier, as seems likely, as high as $207 billion.

The Economist reports:

"Not all these new drugs work. In December the FDA said that Avastin's side effects outweighed its meager impact on breast cancer. (Genentech will argue otherwise in a hearing in June.) More generally, some people reckon that new cancer drugs offer small benefits at an exorbitant price. Provenge costs $93,000 for a course of treatment and extends life by an average of four months. Yervoy costs $120,000 for three-and-a-half months."

None of this is likely to change so long as the conventional medical establishment and organizations like the American Cancer Society, which appears to be far more interested in money than it is in finding a cure, continue to have their way.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

In the video above you can watch as Robyn O'Brien shares her personal journey with food allergies, which lead her to discover an unsettling truth about the U.S. food supply. It's loaded with additives and genetically modified components, including recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in milk, which may be linked to cancer.

As she points out, the United States has the highest rates of cancer in the world, and part of this is likely related to additives in food. Yet, in the war against cancer, you rarely hear talk about preventive steps, such as removing potentially cancer-causing agents like rBGH from the food supply.

Rather, the war against cancer is one being fought with expensive and often toxic drugs, drugs that are making their manufacturers rich while allowing countless Americans to die well before their time.

Several months ago, I wrote about a fascinating study into ancient mummies that believes cancer is not a "natural" disease at all, and genetics are not a primary factor. Tumors were extremely rare until recent times, when pollution and poor diet became issues.  So why are the medical and science communities, by and large, ignoring these basics?

Cancer Drugs are Far Too Lucrative

As The Economist reported, there were more new cancer drugs in development in 2010 than any other therapeutic area. Drug makers are well aware that a blockbuster cancer drug could easily earn them profits in the billions, even if the drug is only borderline effective. It is abundantly clear that profit is a primary motive of these companies so it should not be a surprise that they have moved in this direction.

A course of treatment with the cancer drug Provenge costs $93,000 but extends life by only about four months. Another cancer drug, Yervoy, costs $120,000 to give patients, on average, an extra 3.5 months.

Even Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, acknowledged in The Economist that "… We are not buying a lot of life prolongation with these drugs." Yet in the same breath he called these drugs "the next frontier" in cancer treatment.

Many of these new drugs will undoubtedly be brought onto the market under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) "fast-track" status. Under this accelerated approval process, experimental drugs are brought to market sooner, even though they've only been tested on a small number of people and their effects and safety risks are not clearly known. Unfortunately, there are serious and, sometimes fatal, consequences of bringing drugs to market without adequate safety testing.

Take the leukemia drug Mylotarg, which was brought to market in 2000 after being tested on just 142 patients. In 2010 the FDA asked Pfizer to withdraw the drug after a clinical trial showed that more people were dying while being treated with the drug than among those not taking it.

Similarly, in 2008 the FDA granted Avastin accelerated approval to treat metastatic breast cancer. In 2011, the Agency deemed the drug to be more harmful than beneficial based on recent studies, and recommended phasing it out as a treatment. As is often the case with cancer drugs, Avastin was also extraordinarily expensive, and cost about $8,000 a month.

So as you can see, the drug companies stand to gain immense amounts of money by getting their drugs approved as quickly as possible. The drug company gains between $1 million and $2 million for EVERY extra day that the drug is approved.

How Can Drug Companies Get Away With Charging So Much?

In a normal fair market, a drug that costs over $100,000 for one course of treatment would simply not be attainable by the vast majority of patients. The drug company would either have to sell the drug to the few who were wealthy enough to afford it, or drop the price substantially. But in the U.S. drug market, patients are largely insulated from the costs so the drug companies can essentially charge whatever they want.

As The Economist reported:

"The government health program for the elderly is barred from considering price at all when it decides whether to cover injected drugs under something called Medicare Part B. Under Part B's loopy reimbursement system, the more a drug costs, the more the oncologist who prescribes it is paid. Patients have little reason to demand cheaper drugs. Part B usually covers 80% of a drug's price, and most patients have additional insurance to cover the remainder …

Private insurers have started to make patients pay a larger share of their drug bills. But drug companies often help to pay the patient's share, which stops the public from getting angry about soaring costs. Even when prices are high, demand for cancer drugs is largely inelastic, says Tomas Philipson of the University of Chicago.

Dying patients understandably place a high value on life, so they are willing to pay more for treatment. All this means that firms can charge steep prices.  "At some point it's just corporate chutzpah," says Peter Bach of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York. "There's no check in the system.""

Does the American Cancer Society Put Wealth Above Your Health?

You could make a strong argument for the high price of cancer drugs if they were truly saving lives. But the fact of the matter is these drugs are making no dent at all in the war against cancer. According to the latest statistics compiled by the American Heart Association, cancer surpasses heart disease as the top killer among Americans between the ages of 45 to 74. The odds are very high that you or someone you know has cancer or has died from it.

As more and more Americans continue to die from cancer, the American Cancer Society (ACS) appears to be doing precious little to combat cancer, at best, and may actually hinder real progress, at worst…

In the report titled American Cancer Society —More Interested In Accumulating Wealth Than Saving Lives, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, plainly lays to bare the many conflicts of interest that hamper the effectiveness of this organization.

For example, the ACS has close financial ties to both makers of mammography equipment and cancer drugs. But that's just for starters. Other conflicts of interest include ties to, and financial support from, the pesticide-, petrochemical-, biotech-, cosmetics-, and junk food industries—the very industries whose products are the primary contributors to cancer!

Once you realize that these conflicts of interest are there, it becomes quite easy to understand why the ACS never addresses the environmental components of cancer, and why information about avoidable toxic exposures are so conspicuously absent from their National Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns.

"This is no accident," Dr. Epstein writes. "Zeneca Pharmaceuticals--a spin-off of Imperial Chemical Industries is one of the world's largest manufacturers of chlorinated and other industrial chemicals, including those incriminated as causes of breast cancer.

Zeneca has also been the sole multimillion-dollar funder of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month since its inception in 1984, besides the sole manufacturer of Tamoxifen, the world's top-selling anticancer and breast cancer "prevention" drug, with $400 million in annual sales. Furthermore, Zeneca recently assumed direct management of 11 cancer centers in U.S. hospitals. Zeneca owns a 50 percent stake in these centers known collectively as Salick Health Care."

It's no small irony that the cancer drug Tamoxifen has been found to cause cancer and increase risk of death, while several top-notch preventive strategies and many safe and effective cancer treatments are ignored. The ACS, along with the National Cancer Institute, virtually exclusively focus on cancer research and the diagnosis and chemical treatment of cancer. Preventive strategies, such as avoiding chemical exposures, receive virtually no consideration at all.

So What Can You Do to Help Prevent Cancer?

If ever there was an area in which an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure it is cancer. In order to turn around the cancer epidemic, people need to begin to take cancer prevention seriously -- both on an individual and global level. For an in-depth discussion of cancer prevention tools that deserve your attention, be sure to read The War on Cancer: a Progress Report for Skeptics. I highlighted three advancements that have not yet been accepted by conventional medicine, but are extremely powerful cancer preventive tools nonetheless:

1. Avoid Fructose and Sugar

It's quite clear that if you want to avoid cancer, or are currently undergoing cancer treatment, you absolutely MUST avoid all forms of sugar -- especially fructose -- and this is largely due to its relation to insulin resistance.

According to Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, as much as 80 percent of all cancers are "driven by either mutations or environmental factors that work to enhance or mimic the effect of insulin on the incipient tumor cells,"

Gary Taubes reports, adding:

"As it was explained to me by Craig Thompson, who has done much of this research and is now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the cells of many human cancers come to depend on insulin to provide the fuel (blood sugar) and materials they need to grow and multiply. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (and related growth factors) also provide the signal, in effect, to do it.

The more insulin, the better they do.

Some cancers develop mutations that serve the purpose of increasing the influence of insulin on the cell; others take advantage of the elevated insulin levels that are common to metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Some do both.

Thompson believes that many pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that turn them into malignant tumors if they weren't being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it."

Some cancer centers, such as the Cancer Centers of America, have fully embraced this knowledge and place their patients on strict low-sugar, low-grain diets. But conventional medicine in general has been woefully lax when it comes to highlighting the health dangers of this additive.

As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day including fruits.

But for most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you're virtually guaranteed to consume "hidden" sources of fructose if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food.

2. Optimize Vitamin D

There's overwhelming evidence pointing to the fact that vitamin D deficiency plays a crucial role in cancer development. Researchers within this field have estimated that about 30 percent of cancer deaths -- which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States -- could be prevented each year simply by optimizing the vitamin D levels in the general population.

On a personal level, you can decrease your risk of cancer by MORE THAN HALF simply by optimizing your vitamin D levels with sun exposure. And if you are being treated for cancer it is likely that higher blood levels—probably around 80-90 ng/ml—would be beneficial.

If the notion that sun exposure actually prevents cancer is still new to you, I highly recommend you watch my one-hour vitamin D lecture to clear up any confusion. It's important to understand that the risk of skin cancer from the sun comes only from excessive exposure.

3. Exercise

If you are like most people, when you think of reducing your risk of cancer, exercise doesn't immediately come to mind. However, there is some fairly compelling evidence that exercise can slash your risk of cancer. One of the primary ways exercise lowers your risk for cancer is by reducing elevated insulin levels, which creates a low sugar environment that discourages the growth and spread of cancer cells.

For example, physically active adults experience about half the incidence of colon cancer as their sedentary counterparts, and women who exercise regularly can reduce their breast cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent compared to those who are inactive.

It's important to include a large variety of techniques in your exercise routine, such as strength training, aerobics, core-building activities, and stretching. Most important of all, however, is to make sure you include high-intensity, burst-type exercise, such as Peak 8.

These exercises activate your super-fast twitch muscle fibers, which can increase your body's natural production of human growth hormone. For detailed instructions, please see this previous article.

You can find 10 more natural tips for cancer prevention here, many of which are also part of my nutrition plan. I strongly believe that if you are able to work your way up to the advanced health plan, you will virtually eliminate the risk of most cancers.


[+] Sources and References

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