Cancer Death Rate Dropped 21 Percent From 1991-2014

According to the American Cancer Society, both cancer incidence and death rates have declined significantly since 1991.

Each year, the American Cancer Society estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths that will occur in the United States in the current year and compiles the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival. Incidence data were collected by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program; the National Program of Cancer Registries; and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. Mortality data were collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2017, 1,688,780 new cancer cases and 600,920 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States. For all sites combined, the cancer incidence rate is 20% higher in men than in women, while the cancer death rate is 40% higher. However, sex disparities vary by cancer type. For example, thyroid cancer incidence rates are 3-fold higher in women than in men (21 vs 7 per 100,000 population), despite equivalent death rates (0.5 per 100,000 population), largely reflecting sex differences in the “epidemic of diagnosis.” Over the past decade of available data, the overall cancer incidence rate (2004-2013) was stable in women and declined by approximately 2% annually in men, while the cancer death rate (2005-2014) declined by about 1.5% annually in both men and women. From 1991 to 2014, the overall cancer death rate dropped 25%, translating to approximately 2,143,200 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates had remained at their peak. Although the cancer death rate was 15% higher in blacks than in whites in 2014, increasing access to care as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may expedite the narrowing racial gap; from 2010 to 2015, the proportion of blacks who were uninsured halved, from 21% to 11%, as it did for Hispanics (31% to 16%). Gains in coverage for traditionally underserved Americans will facilitate the broader application of existing cancer control knowledge across every segment of the population.


PCRM May Not Have Many Physicians, But Its Got Alicia Silverstone

As most readers of this web site realize, very few members of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are, in fact, physicians. But then again, who needs physicians when you’ve got Alicia Silverstone?

According to World Entertainment News Network, Silverstone was slated to speak at PCRM at its April The Art of Compassion Gala. According to WENN, Silverstone planned to discuss her advocacy of alternative medical therapies, including acupuncture and aromatherapy. No word on whether or not she also endorses magnets and chelation.

Silverstone styles herself as a not just a Clueless actress, but also something of a health consultant. She tells WENN (emphasis added),

I’d be at the farmer’s market and someone would ask me for tips about becoming a vegetarian. If I wasn’t an actor I’d be a hub of information for people who need help, whatever it is.

My favorite idea is to go to a grocery store and be at the front and show people what they should get because I love food and I love the grocery store, so I want to be able to help people find a good alternative choice.

I’ve also been helping sick people because a lot of my friends have been coming to me and saying, ‘My relative has cancer, can you help?’

I’ve been guiding them to alternative ways of healing and there’s been a lot of progress and it’s really rewarding. Just watching people take their lives and take control of their lives and get healthy on their own is the most rewarding experience.

Sounds like she and PCRM are a perfect fit.


Silverstone Fights for Alternative Medicines. World Entertainment News Network, March 28, 2005.

Heather Mills McCartney: Vegetarian Diet Cures Cancer!

In March, Heather Mills McCartney wrote an article in which she claimed that her vegetarian diet stopped an infection she received after having her leg amputated following a motorcycle accident and cured her cancer. McCartney did not speculate on whether or not vegetarianism can also make the crippled walk and the blind see.

Writing in the London Evening Standard, McCartney claims,

As I watched more and more of my leg disappear [from infection] I decided to discharge myself from hospital. . . A girlfriend of mine had breast cancer. Although not scientifically proven, she believed she went into remission after following a vegetarian program at America’s Hippocrates centre in West Palm Beach, Florida.

In desperation, I went to the States. The moment I arrived they took me off all my medication . . . Just 10 days of a strict vegetarian diet, wheatgrass juice and placing garlic poultices on my wound (Owwww!) and I was healed — as were scores of people around me, from addicts to cancer sufferers and non-insulin dependent diabetics.

Presumably, if she’d have just drank enough wheatgrass juice and garlic rather than relying on those toxic medications which she campaigned against, Linda McCartney could have cured her breast cancer and would be with us still.

Anyway, as the National Council Against Health Fraud puts it, though in slightly different terms, the whole wheatgrass-as-cure nonsense was started by a raw food nutcase named Ann Wigmore. Wigmore believed wheatgrass and raw foods were a Biblically ordained treatment,

The notion that wheatgrass can benefit serious disease sufferers was conceived by Ann Wigmore, a Boston area resident. Wigmore (1909-94) was born in Lithuania and raised by her grandmother who, according to Wigmore, gave her an unwavering confidence in the healing power of nature. Wigmore believed in astrology, and described herself (a Pisces) as a dreamer who saw life from the spiritual viewpoint to the neglect of the physical. Wigmore’s theory on the healing power of grasses was predicated upon the Biblical story of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar who spent seven insane years living like a wild animal eating the grass of the fields. Because he recovered, Wigmore presumed that the grasses had cured his insanity. [The Bible says that a prescribed seven years of insanity was visited upon the King as Divine punishment for his arrogance. (Dan 4:31-7)]

The common observation that dogs and cats nibble on grass, presumably when they feel ill, also strengthened Wigmore’s belief in the healing power of grasses [1]. Wigmore theorized that rotting food in the intestine forms toxins that circulate in the bloodstream (aka, the intestinal toxicity theory) and cause cancer [2]. She taught that the life span of the wheatgrass juice was less than three hours, so it had to be cut from growing plants, juiced and consumed fresh. She speculated that the enzymes found in raw wheatgrass were alive and could “detoxify” the body by oral ingestion and by enemas. Wheatgrass is prepared by sprouting wheat berries and growing them until they form chlorophyll. It was the chlorophyll in wheatgrass that enthused Wigmore. She called chlorophyll “the life blood of the planet.” Wigmore believed that cooking foods “killed” them because this deactivates enzymes. She held that the moment the “sacred” 7.4 acid-alkaline balance (the same as human blood) is “killed” that its effectiveness would be reduced [3]. (For information on exaggerations about the similarities between hemoglobin and chlorophyll see NCAHF’s statement on chlorophyll.)

In the 1980s, Wigmore took to claiming that her “enzyme soup” could cure AIDS and rendered childhood immunization necessary, which led to her unsuccessful prosecution for fraud by the state of Massachusetts. A judge ultimately ruled that Wigmore’s claims that AIDS could be cured through her methods were protected by the First Amendment. She was ordered, however, to stop fraudulently claiming that she was an accredited physician.

The Hippocrates Life Change Center bases its “treatment” regimen on Wigmore’s nutty views. Like Wigmore, the HLCC emphasizes the wonders that are supposed to be accomplished from enzymes. What they can’t get into their brains is that the enzymes from food are quickly broken down into amino acids by the digestive system and as such don’t play much of a role at all in affecting human health for good or ill.

Moreover, as the NCAHF’s William Jarvis notes that it is surprising that wheatgrass fanatics fail to note that “grass-eating animals are not spared from cancer, despite their large intake of fresh chlorophyll,” and, course, since chlorophyll isn’t absorbed by the human body, it does even less for humans.

Of course, who are you going to believe — some evil animal torturing scientists or some nutcase who fraudulently passes herself off as a physician while claiming that raw foods can cure AIDS?


Heather: Vegetarian diet saved me from cancer. Daily Mail, March 23, 2005.

Wheatgrass Therapy. William Jarvis, 1998.

Canadian Researchers Isolate Stem Cells in Brain Tumors

Canadian scientists recently published the results of their research identifying stem cells in brain tumors that keep the tumor growing. The research was published in the Nov. 18 issue of Nature.

It was already known that breast cancer and leukemia use stem cells to quickly grow and regenerate when they are threatened with destruction, but the finding that brain tumors also utilize stem cells suggests that this is a common mechanism used by cancerous tumors.

Researchers first isolated stem cells from other cells in cancerous human tumors. They did this by extracting cells in the tumors that were producing a protein commonly found on the surface of other stem cells. They then injected 100 of these cells into mice.

Sixteen of the 19 mice injected with these cells developed cancerous brain tumors. This is the first time that researchers have demonstrated that such cells can indeed cause cancer itself.

According to Nature,

Moreover, the cancer stem cells grew into tumors that behaved similarly to those in the patients from which they came, resembling glioblastomas and medulloblastomas, for example. This suggests that mice tumors will be a good way to study the human disease.


Stem Cells Feed Brain Tumors. Kristen Philipkoski, Wired, November 17, 2004.

Stem cells home in on brain cancer. Jim Giles, Nature, October 25, 2004.

New Drug Tackles Gleevec Resistance in Mice — May Help Leukemia Patience

An article published in the July 16 issue of Science reports on efforts to find a compound that can reduce or eliminate resistance to a treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).

According to the National Institutes of Health, CML is “a cancer of blood cells, characterized by replacement of the bone marrow with malignant, leukemic cells.” CML is a genetic disease in which chromosome translocation causes an enzyme to signal for the body to produce excessive levels of white blood cells.

CML, however, is one of the few cancers that has an effective treatment. A drug called Gleevec was created specifically to interfere with the enzyme, thus stopping the overproduction of white blood cells.

There’s just one problem — there are a number of known genetic mutations which cause Gleevec to fail to work. For individuals with those particular mutations, Gleevec will not work.

Which is where a group of researchers from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bristol-Myers Squibb enter with research on a compound called BMS-354825. BMS-354825 is a compound designed to have the same effect as Gleevec while sidestepping that compound’s vulnerability to a number of genetic mutations.

In the Science article, HHMI investigator Charles Sawyers reports that the results of mice studies demonstrate that BMS-354825 virtually stopped CML in mice who have genetic mutations similar to those that cause Gleevec resistance in human beings. The researchers also demonstrated that BMS-354825 inhibits the production of diseased bone marrow progenitor cells in cultured human bone marrow cells taken from patients who are resistant to Gleevec.

Clinical research of BMS-354825 is still years away, and any number of problems could prevent the drug from being as effective in human beings as it is in mice. Still it is important to note that Gleevec, which has extended the lives of so many of those afflicted with CML, was the product of animal research as well.

In 1990, researchers at a number of laboratories demonstrated with a mice model of the disease that it was caused by a defective protein, BCR-ABL. In 1996, researchers demonstrated that Gleevec inhibited the growth of cells that expressed BCR-ABL in mice and later that it eradicated CML tumors in nude mice. In addition, pre-clinical toxicology testing in animals indicated the drug was safe enough to proceed with clinical trials.


New drug shows promise against Gleevec resistance in mice. Press Release, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, July 15, 2004.

Milk May Reduce Risk of Colorectal Cancer — But Then Again, Maybe Not

Researchers conducting a meta-analysis of 10 studies tracking nutritional consumption of half a million people found that consuming a glass of 6 to 8 ounce of milk was correlated with a 12 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. Those who drank more than a glass a day had a 15 lower relative risk of colorectal cancer. The study was published in the National Cancer Institute Journal.

So should you rush out and start drinking milk in order to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer?

Well, even with such a large group, this is still a very small level of risk reduction by epidemiological standards. As the National Cancer Institute Journal noted in a June editorial,

Where are we, then, with respect to population-level evidence for the calcium–colorectal cancer hypothesis? We have increasingly consistent observational epidemiologic evidence from studies with colorectal cancer end points. We cannot, though, definitively rule out confounding as an explanation for the modest inverse associations seen in these observational epidemiologic studies.

Interestingly, the largest gains for reducing colorectal cancer were among people who took calcium supplements, but the researchers have concerns that high doses of calcium obtained this way could contribute to prostate cancer.


Milk may lower risk of colorectal cancer. Associated Press, July 6, 2004.

Milk helps prevent colon cancer. Health Day, July 6, 2004.

Advancing the Calcium–Colorectal Cancer Hypothesis. Arthur Schatzkin and Ulrike Peters, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, June 16, 2004.