Nutrition and Cancer
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Nutrition and Cancer

The overall result of these experiments (described in the research paper from the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development reproduced in pdf format below) on squamous cell carcinoma in mice is that healthful diets increase the growth rate of cancer. Poor diets decrease its growth rate. This is probably a general effect that applies equally well to humans.

...if diet restriction were practiced by all cancer patients in the United States, the resulting life-extension might equal or surpass that resulting from the combined efforts of the entire current medical oncology effort.

While it is likely (although not proved) that excellent nutrition strengthens the immune system and other defense mechanisms in such a way as to lower the probability of contracting cancer, it is clear that, once cancer has established itself, excellent nutrition leads to its accelerated growth. This may not be true of all cancers, but it is likely to be true of a large fraction of them.

The attempts to develop drugs that decrease the vascularization of hard tumors have been well publicized. These are essentially efforts to reduce the nutrients supplied to the cancer tissue itself, while not affecting the rest of the body. While a promising area of research, these drugs are not now available.

We discovered, however, that starving the whole organism is very effective in mice. (There are many anecdotal accounts of this in humans, also, but no controlled trials.)

The growth rate of cancer in these mice was varied over a 20-fold range by diet alone. Super nutrition (lots of vitamins, etc.) increased the growth rate two-fold, while diet restriction reduced the growth rate ten-fold.

Although this was done with one organism (mice) and with one cancer (squamous cell carcinoma), the effect is so large that it is very likely that it will be seen in humans and with other types of cancer. Also, the rationale for its effect is simple and sensible, and many individual humans have experienced this effect.

There are numerous ways to reduce one's nutritional intake. Perhaps the safest and most enjoyable (and highest quality for the nutrients that are ingested) is the raw fruits and vegetable diet originally developed by Ann Wigmore (now deceased) and her co-workers. This was popularized by Arn and Edie Mae Hunsberger in their book, "How I Conquered Cancer Naturally." (The book is still available through the link at the bottom of this page.) These developers and writers did not understand why their diet helped cancer victims and tended to give explanations based on improved nutrition.

It is a fact, however, that one cannot obtain sufficient nutrients (over a prolonged period) from raw fruits and vegetables alone because the bulk fiber and water in these diets prevents eating enough. The proponents advocated juicing (to get more) and supplements of staples after a month or two. They also, in later years, added staples to the diets initially.

Note that, in the mouse experiments on raw fruits and vegetables, the cancer slowing effect was completely lost when soy protein or other dietary improvements were added.

Cancer is a scourge that afflicts hundreds of millions of people. Hopefully, someday there will be a completely effective ordinary therapy. In the meantime, however, if I or some other member of my family contracted cancer, we would make the best guess possible as to the proper response. In that case, we would definitely choose diet restriction by raw fruits and vegetables in accordance with the research shown here.

One final note, describing one of many human stories that I have heard over the years:

A surgeon telephoned me to ask some questions about this diet. During the conversation, he told me why he had become interested in it (to the great displeasure of his colleagues).

A patient had come to him in whose throat was growing a completely inoperable and soon-to-be-fatal cancer. He told the patient that there was nothing he could do for him and that he would soon die.

The patient, however, went to Ann Wigmore's establishment and started eating their initial diet of strictly raw fruits and vegetables. He pursued this fanatically, however, and never switched to Wigmore and Hunsberger's phase-two diet including additional staples.

Many months later, the patient returned to the surgeon. The surgeon told me that there were three things that were unusual about this patient.

1. He was back. He should already have been long dead.

2. There was not a trace of cancer in his throat.

3. He looked like he had just stepped out of a Nazi or Communist concentration camp. The patient was almost dead of malnutrition. He was a walking skeleton.

The surgeon nursed him back to good nutritional health - but the cancer never returned.

All of our experiments on diet restriction involved slowing the growth rate of cancer (although slowing by 20-fold is equivalent to a cure in people of advanced age). We did not observe cures or remissions of the cancer. It is possible that this occurred with some mice, but we were not specifically studying it.

Therefore, I am not willing to say that diet restriction will cause the remission of tumors. I know, however, that diet restriction can slow the growth of cancer markedly. This effect is so large that, in my opinion, if diet restriction were practiced by all cancer patients in the United States, the resulting life-extension might equal or surpass that resulting from the combined efforts of the entire current medical oncology effort.

The research paper reproduced in pdf format below summarizes work carried out by my coworkers and me when I was President and Research Director of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine. The results of these experiments caused an argument between Linus and me, which ended our 16-year period of work together. He was not willing to accept the experimentally proved fact that vitamin C in ordinary doses accelerated the growth rate of squamous cell carcinoma in these mice.

At the time, Linus was promoting his claim that "75% of all cancer can be prevented and cured by vitamin C alone." This claim proved to be without experimental foundation and not true, although the possibility that modest doses of vitamin C somewhat improve resistance to cancer has never been adequately tested. The dose response curve of vitamin C vs. mouse squamous cell carcinoma is shown in the paper below. Vitamin C increased the rate of growth of cancer at human equivalents of 1 to 5 grams per day, but suppressed the cancer growth rate at doses on the order of 100 grams per day (near the lethal dose), as do other measures of malnutrition.

Arthur B. Robinson
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
December 1999

Click here for the research paper (2 MB) in PDF format. Click here to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader if you do not already have it.

It is now also available in DjVu format (requires the DjVu plug in from  Click here to view the DjVu version of this paper. (230KB)

Copyright 1999 - The December 1999 text authored by Arthur B Robinson herein may be reproduced by anyone as long as they reproduce it in its entirety and give attribution to the URL

Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine 
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