Billionaire business magnate and philanthropist Warren Buffett is planning to start radiation treatments this summer for early stage prostate cancer. Pioneering new research suggests that such cancers can be treated and even reversed with a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle changes.
Everyone reading this, right now, has mutated cells within them with the potential to progress to cancer, but one cancer cell never hurt anyone. Two cancer cells never hurt anyone. A billion cancer cells? Well, then you start getting into trouble. So we have to slow down and reverse the replication and growth of cancer cells. We all have cells that could grow into tumors. We have to slow these cells down, so that our immune systems can clean them up before they spell trouble.
Take breast cancer, for example. Like all cancer, it starts with one cell, which divides and becomes two cells, then becomes 4, then 8. Every time the cells divide, the tiny tumor doubles in size. Thanks to the mathematics of exponential growth, all it has to do is double about 30 times and we’re up to a billion cells. 2, 4, 8, 16–do that 30 times and you’re up to a billion, which is a tumor just large enough to be picked up by mammography. All it has to do is double thirty times–but it takes between 25 days and a thousand days for cancer cells to double once. So from the time that first cell gets mutated, it takes between 2 years and 100 years before it actually shows up as a little tumor you can see or feel.
The skin cancer we die of at 50 may have well been because of a teenage sunburn. Many breast cancers start in the teen years as well. In fact, some breast cancer may actually start in utero, before you’re even born, and depend in part on what your mom ate! The shortest known interval between the initial mutation and a cancer diagnosis is 18 months, which is when the first leukemia cases started showing up after Hiroshima. But for most solid tumors (meaning non-blood cancers), cancer takes decades to develop. So we may have time to stop and reverse it. This is what’s called the promotion stage of cancer. The cancer has been initiated (typically by a DNA mutation), but if we don’t promote it, if we keep it dormant, if we slow it down, we may even be able to reverse its growth.
As I lay out in my video Slowing the Growth of Cancer, autopsy studies in Japan show that they have just as much prostate cancer as Americans do. But death from prostate cancer is only about a fifth what it is here (until they emigrate and start eating like us). Japan has the #1 longest life expectancy of any nation (the U.S. falls around 19th). When Japanese men finally do die, though, many have tiny prostate tumors. In Japan, most men die with their tumors instead of from their tumors.
Dr. Dean Ornish, best known for his pioneering work into reversing heart disease with a plant-based diet, tried to see what a healthy diet and lifestyle could do for prostate cancer, as laid out in today’s NutritionFacts.org video pick featured above.
By age 80, the majority of men everywhere have tiny cancerous prostate tumors. By age 40, a third of women have microscopic cancerous breast tumors (see my Care2 post on improving breast cancer survival). It’s like atherosclerosis. About half of American young adults in their 20s already have some hardening of the arteries. Many of us, right now, have tumors growing inside of us. So we can’t wait until we’re older to start eating healthier, we have to start now. Tonight.
Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: And then Dr. Ornish tried to see if a plant-based diet could help reverse the aging process! See my 4-minute video Research Into Reversing Aging.
Image credit: www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca / Flickr