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The Truth Behind The E-mail of “Johns Hopkins Cancer Update”

February 15th, 2011 · 3 Comments ·
 
 

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I have the same e-mail with the subject of “Johns Hopkins Cancer News” or “Johns Hopkins Cancer Update”, as many as 5 copies within a week. I deleted the first four, but eventually curiosity won and I had a read on the lengthy e-mail. On the first read, I am quite impressed with it. It talked about what to do to minimize the risk of getting cancer cells. Moreover, Johns Hopkins Hospital is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest hospitals. The Johns Hopkins University is a private university which is particularly esteemed for its medical, scientific, and international studies programs.

However, I was not convinced by few of the points mentioned in the e-mail and decided to go to check it out in the net. To my surprise, the e-mail apparent is a hoax. It was not issued by Johns Hopkins university of hospital nor the university. In fact, both the hospital and university have issued official statements to deny its involvement in the creation of the mail. However, they did not elaborate further on the contents of the e-mail, point by point.

For the benefit of everyone, based on my research, I decided to publish the contents of the e-mail with my comments at each point. However, if you find anything wrong, I stand to be corrected.

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The e-mail says…1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

Mun’s comment: Cells are the very small units that make up all living things, including our human body. You have billions of cells in your body. Cancer happens when cells that are not normal grow and spread very fast. Normal body cells grow and divide and know to stop growing. Over time, they also die. Unlike these normal cells, cancer cells just continue to grow and divide out of control and do not die. So, no, if you do not have cancer, you do not have the so called cancer cells in your body.

The e-mail says…2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.

Mun’s comment: Cancer cells develop from normal body cells. This development is a complicated process and takes a long time. A normal cell has to develop several genetic ‘mistakes’ before it becomes a cancer cell. It is true that there are normal body cells developing genetic mistakes all the time, as they go through the normal cycle of dividing and multiplying. Our immune system will recognize damaged cells and destroy them. When we are older, we are likely to have more genetic changes in cells than when we are younger. So, to first qualified as cancer cell from normal cell, severe genetic changes must take place on the cells.

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The e-mail says…3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed, prevented from multiplying & forming tumors.

Mun’s comment:
Based on what I read, like I mentioned earlier, our immune system will generally recognize damaged cells and destroy them. However, a a poorly performing immune system is not a major cause of cancer, except in rare situations, such as after an organ transplant. Cancer is caused by other factors happening together, but the key factor is often age.

The e-mail says…4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

Mun’s comment: This point is valid.

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The e-mail says…5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

Mun’s comment: We eat many different types of food with thousands of nutrients and chemicals. We eat them in different amounts. Till today, there are more than 200 types of cancer. So, scientists have trouble to pinpoint how exactly diet affects cancer risk as this is an extremely complicated study.

So far, scientists are fairly sure that vitamins A and C, and folate are playing an important role in protecting against cancer. Nothing beat to eat the real fruit and vegetables. So, taking purely the vitamin supplements will not protect you against cancer.

The e-mail says…6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

Mun’s comment: Yes, cancer treatment has side effects. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy kill many cells, including the normal cells and cancer cells, when they are actively growing and dividing. Blood cells, skin and hair cells are affected. So, treatments often cause low blood counts, hair loss, and other sickness.

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The e-mail says…7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

Mun’s comment: Same like above comment.

The e-mail says…8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

Mun’s comment: The first part is true, however, the second part about prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction, I do not find any solid facts to prove that it is true nor false.

The e-mail says…9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

Mun’s comment: As mentioned earlier, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have side effect, including to the patient’s immune system. That is why white blood cell count is important in people on chemotherapy. White cells are cells of the immune system defending the body against infectious disease.

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The e-mail says…10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

Mun’s comment: Yes, it is true that cancer calls may mutate. However, with or without surgery, cancer may still grow directly into nearby body tissues or through the blood circulation.

The e-mail says…11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.

Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off 1 important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey, Stevia or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in colour. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.

Mun’s comment: As mentioned earlier, cancer cells actually develop from normal cells. Like normal cells, cancer cells need food and oxygen to survive. All cells ‘feed on sugar’, including cancer cells. There is glucose in the blood from digested food and it circulates to all body cells.

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The e-mail says… Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells are being starved.

Mun’s comment: No, cells do not ‘feed on mucous’ from milk, or anywhere else as claimed in the e-mail.

The e-mail says… Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.

Mun’s comment: I am confused by the claim that meat based diet is acidic. I need more information on this area to get convinced. Yes, it is true that growth hormone is bad, but for some other reasons. Most parasites (if present) die when you cook the meat.

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The e-mail says… A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

Mun’s comment: I am quite amused by this claim that diet can change the body’s environment from acid to alkaline. Based on what I have read, human body relies much on many very finely tuned chemical reactions and a very delicate chemical balance. It is impossible to change that balance just by eating something. It has to be very tightly controlled for our bodies to work properly. Our physiological pH is about 7.4 and it has to be that. If it goes too acidic or alkaline we get sick. Fruit will not change that. Whole grains fruits and veggies are good. But, not because they stimulate an alkaline environment. It is true that by eating certain foods can give some people an “acid stomach”. However, that acid thingy is just acid in the stomach juices and it is normal to have some acid there to help digestion. It has and nothing to do with the ‘acidity’ of the body as a whole.

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The e-mail says… Avoid coffee, tea & chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water best to drink is spring water, purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.

Mun’s comment: The evidence is between caffeine and cancer is still unclear. As for dark chocolate, coffee and tea, they actually contain antioxidants which may be good for fighting cancer. The e-mail author may contradict himself because green tea has caffeine too, though in a much smaller amount. Last thing, as far as I know, distilled water has a pH of 7 if its pure and not acidic as claimed in the e-mail. But, that is not important, because if you do not believe the above claims regarding acidic or alkaline environment, this point is redundant.

The e-mail says…12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines become purified and leads to more toxic buildup.

Mun’s Comment: Meat eaten in excessive quantities can be bad, but I have no idea how undigested meat can go to intestines without being digested. Meat is not fiber, you see.

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The e-mail says…13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

Mun’s Comment: Eating less meat may be good for other health reasons, but I doubt it will free up any enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells.

The e-mail says…14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.

Mun’s comment: The more I read this point, the more I believe that this e-mail was actually written by someone who is trying to sell supplements to us. Human body is capable to dispose damaged cells itself without the help from those expensive supplements. What is more important for us is to eat balanced diet.

The e-mail says…15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

Mun’s comment: I agree with this one.

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The e-mail says…16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.

Mun’s comment:
While I agree exercising is good. However, this claim of oxygen therapy kills cancer cell may not be true. Cancer cells can still survive in the so called ‘oxygenated environment’. Many have this perception because well oxygenated cancer cells are more likely to be killed by radiotherapy. So, people are confused that thinking if the more oxygen we have in our body, the less chance we get cancer or the harder cancer cell can survive.

Final Words

Years ago, I have also got e-mail talking about freezing water in plastic water bottles may release the chemicals into the water and therefore causing cancer. The real truth is that freezing actually works against the release of chemicals. The myth eventually dies down. It is nothing wrong to get worry after reading e-mail like this, especially it claims it was issued from a reliable source. Read it with open mind. Some of the points are true and valid. However, what is more important is to take the initiative and do a check. You never know whether this type of e-mail is written by company with the intention to get people buying their “natural health” products.

If you want to more information about cancer, please go to the following sources for further reading:

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3 responses so far ↓
  • Carole Huet // Feb 15, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    Very good comments, thanks…I am trying to have less beef and pork, but my husband misses it….

    He eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, much more fruit than I. We are starting with one meatless dinner a week…

    Carole Huet

  • Seth Jared // Feb 19, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Mun,

    Very thorough analysis! The one point on which I would like to comment is is the acidity/alkilinity issue. First off, I think it’s amazing the Hopkins people acknowledge the link between acidity and cancer. Prevention will ultimately turn out to be the cure in the future.

    The level of acidity in our modern diet is off the charts. I never cared much about this stuff or believed it until I tried Alkalized Water. I recommend you google alkalized water in your area, someone who has a Kangen unit or another good machine that brings the ph up to 8 or 9. Or even go to whole foods, they are starting to carry it there. You can literally taste the difference. When I started drinking high ph water, my indigestion went down and I noticed a general overall difference in how I felt. This isn’t the same as a randomized study, but intuitively I could just tell there is something to this. I still drink regular water but also drink high ph water daily.

    Clearly, these guys have been studying this stuff intensely for years, and I would take their findings over some of the other random literature out there. But I definitely recommend to try drinking some high ph water yourself and see what you think.

    Another interesting that is that in China cancer is virtually nil. One eerie fact: they don’t drink milk! And they consider it to be a “cancer” food. Not necessarily for reasons of mucus as the email suggests. But it is interesting that humans drink the milk of another animal. I think we should study the Chinese lifestyle to see why they get cancer less than we do.

    But that’s for another discussion.

    For now, keep up the good work!

    Seth

  • simone // Feb 24, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    hi mun,

    nice work!
    when I receive the email, I try to search if it comes from a reliable source, and I found out some web simply copy it to his blog without checking!
    what will happen if a cancer patient just follows what it says.(my friend is suffering cancer at the moment.)

    thanks,
    Simone

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