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Editorial Issue 17

by Sandra Goodman PhD(more info)

listed in editorial, originally published in issue 17 - January 1997

In my days as a research scientist, I used to think that the way to broaden medical treatment methods was to do rigorous research and prove that a certain treatment or regime has a therapeutic effect upon a disease.

Years have now passed since those days; in the meantime, the research evidence regarding Nutrition in the prevention and treatment of cancer has become a huge mountain. Yet, I have to admit that it is a long, long road leading from the publication of positive research results to the adoption of dietary guidelines for the nation, and the implementation by the medical profession of nutritional treatment options for cancer.

This disappointing scenario was recently brought home to me rather graphically when I, along with senior epidemiologist Dr Sheila Bingham, both spoke to a combined meeting of the Parliamentary Group for Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Parliamentary Food and Health Forum at the House of Lords, regarding the evidence for nutrition in the prevention and treatment of Cancer.

It has been published in the literature for over thirty years ago that diet - including smoking, and alcohol consumption - plays a major factor in the development of certain types of cancer.

Countless large cohorted epidemiological studies from all over the world have provided an abundance of evidence that certain foods - fruits, vegetables, fibre - help to prevent the risk of cancer, while other foods - saturated fat, low-fibre, alcohol - are associated with an increased risk of cancer. Readers of Positive Health are regularly updated with the latest research regarding nutrition both in the prevention and in the treatment of cancer.

However, while nutritional and dietary guidelines have been in place in the US for a decade, still no such guidelines exist in the UK.
The attitude seems to be that introducing dietary guidelines to the public to safeguard their health before every last bit of research has been performed, would cause a furore among the food industry! Poor souls.

I for one cannot see how advising people that eating a diet rich in fibre, fruits and vegetables could halve or greater reduce their risk of cancer (and, indeed heart disease), could in any way disadvantage the food industry. Furthermore, in my opinion, people's health must take primacy over business interests.
It is true that cancer is complex, under the modulation of a variety of genes, and that cancer goes through stages of initiation, promotion and progression, often over long periods of time.

Present-day research has been focussed upon unravelling how to control cancer cells and best of all, how to induce their suicide - apoptosis.

Many nutrients, including the antioxidant vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids, have been shown to be cytotoxic to cancer cells, via a variety of mechanisms.
Yes, there are a plethora of questions which still need to be answered about nutrition in the prevention and treatment of cancer. And, indeed, the full details emerging from some of this research may take many years.

However, the crux of the matter surely must centre upon providing people with all the information already known, so that individuals know that they can significantly reduce their risk of cancer through a healthier diet.

Whether people choose to implement changes to their diet is a matter of their choice - but at least they should have the information.

To wait another decade until all the research is compiled and totally understood, in order not to upset the food industry, is a pathetic travesty to the hard work and dedication of thousands of research scientists and oncologists who have laboured to investigate the links between nutrition and cancer and to the tens of thousands of victims - our families and loved ones - who die every year.

I sincerely hope that scientists and policy makers will choose to inform people now about the research regarding nutrition and cancer, and perhaps risk getting some details wrong, rather than to wait another decade.


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About Sandra Goodman PhD

Sandra Goodman PhD, Co-founder and Editor of Positive Health, trained as a Molecular Biology scientist in Agricultural Biotechnology in Canada and the US, focusing upon health issues since the 1980s in the UK. Author of 4 books, including Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art, Vitamin C – The Master Nutrient, Germanium: The Health and Life Enhancer and numerous articles, Dr Goodman was the lead author of the Consensus Document Nutritional and LifeStyle Guidelines for People with Cancer and compiled the Cancer and Nutrition Database for the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in 1993. Dr Goodman is passionate about making available to all people, particularly those with cancer, clinical expertise in Nutrition and Complementary Therapies. Dr Goodman was recently featured as Doctor of the Fortnight in ThinkWellness360.

Dr Goodman and long-term partner Mike Howell seek individuals with vision, resources, and organization to continue and expand the Positive Health PH Online legacy beyond the first 30 years, with facilities for training, to fund alternative cancer research, and promote holistic organizations internationally. Read about Dr Goodman and purchase Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art.  She may be contacted privately for Research, Lectures and Editorial services via:   and

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