Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cancer Fuss

Yesterday's post garnered some criticism about my assertion that there would be less cancer if people ate vegan diets. I don't want to start a never-ending war of comments and I normally would answer this kind of thing in the comments section itself, but this seemed important enough to post about. As requested, here is a link to one of many articles that supports my comment:

There are many other studies cited on that site, which is run by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, not fringe animal rights activists. I just wanted respond to the accusation that I am spouting off irresponsibly or without evidence. Each person's ethical code is their own business, of course, but mine does not allow the intentional victimization of another for my own benefit, except in cases of self defense against that other being. So I don't believe in torturing others to cure ourselves. That's just me, your results may vary and objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

In short, according to medical information I've read: yes, cancer has numerous causes, susceptibility is genetic, and diet can strongly affect your chances of getting it and recovering from it.


Pies said...

"The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. which promotes a strictly vegetarian diet, preventive medicine, the cessation of animal research, and encourages higher standards of ethics and effectiveness in research. [..] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has donated more than $1.3m to PCRM." (Wikipedia)

I'm not saying their research is fake, but please consider the source.

zoe said...

Dear Mr. Piraro,

As you know, PCRM is not neutral on the issue of vegetarian diets. It is comprised of ethical vegetarian and vegan doctors, many of whom also have connections to the animal rights community. That doesn't automatically discount their opinions, but it does deserve full disclosure. It would be like citing research on the negative health effects of abortions, from a pro-life medical organization. If you believe something is morally wrong, the confirmation bias is potentially powerful - of course you are going to believe things that say meat is unhealthy, and disregard or discredit other things which say it is healthy.

But, of course, none of this is relevant to the moral question. Even if eating meat three times a day made you live forever, I doubt most veg*ans would suddenly drop their objections to eating meat. And even if in some alternate universe veganism cut years off a person's life, the question would still be, "Do I want a longer life as a killer of other beings? Or a shorter life, but with a clear conscience?"

That's why I don't think it's effective, or even altogether honest, to use science and hard facts to argue for or against veganism. It's a matter of personal conviction, a matter of the heart. On another part of your web site, you mention some "anatomical" arguments for humans not eating meat, like the fact that we have molar teeth and other herbivorous adaptations. This is something of a half-truth. Chimpanzees, who are even more frugivorous than us, also eat meat and prize it as food. Early hominids depended on animal foods for nutrition in a harsh environment. But, again, now that technology and civilization have made it possible to choose vegetarianism, it doesn't matter. Even if we had evolved as blood-sucking vampires with giant fangs, now that it's possible to get complete nutrition through plant foods and supplements, it's up to us to choose.

NinaV said...

I have to agree. It's so sad because so many people suffer terribly from these horrible diseases. Loved ones are left to feel helpless at watching family members and friends waste away.

But when I step back and look I see that cancer has become big business and not enough attention is being paid to the prevention of the disease.

NinaV said...

I have to agree. It's so sad because so many people suffer terribly from these horrible diseases. Loved ones are left to feel helpless at watching family members and friends waste away.

But when I step back and look I see that cancer has become big business and not enough attention is being paid to the prevention of the disease.

ojeano said...

Two worthwhile sources of support (I haven't read the book linked here yet, but I'm assigning myself primary nutritionist for a friend with cancer and intend to use it):

And speaking of genetics, epigenetics is a fascinating study. They use animals, which I wish they'd stop doing (as it is not necessary, just sadistic) but they did, and here's the info:

ojeano said...

PS: the PRCM site is extremely helpful, thank you.

Vladhed said...


Unknown said...

why is it ok to hurt another being in self defense in your opinion?

Emily said...

Well said. All of it!

Plan 9 Studios said...

Well, I can't (nor won't) dispute the cancer connection with eating meat. Health reasons are a primary reason I went veggie almost 20 years ago.

However, I did want to point out, that not all cancer research is done using animals. I work for a blood pathogen company in Colorado that specializes in making transfusion products that have been used successfully to treat Leukemia, bone cancers and other blood born diseases. We're "for-profit" so I won't be asking for your money.

And we do ZERO animal testing. It's simply not necessary.

I say this in anticipation of people making the same old argument that says "real" scientific testing has to involve animals. Or that the FDA won't validate a product without it. Or that all ethical companies don't make money - we'll hit a billion in sales in a few years.

Don't make the argument. It just makes you look dumb.

MarkS said...


Folks have to lighten up

You're not allowed to have an opinion nowdays, everybody is either offended or worried about everybody else.

Unknown said...

Please, please, please hope you never get cancer as a result of chomping down on a cigar too many times, or from just living in our very polluted world. With or without a "good" diet, it happens. Would you back up what you say by refusing cancer treatment if it turned out that treatment came about in part from animal research? Hopefully you'll never have to choose.

Boom said...

I've looked at evidence presented asserting that eating meat causes cancer before, and come to the conclusion that it may not be the presence of meat as much as the exclusion of vegetables. I try to eat a few vegetarian meals a week and avoid fried meats.

Anonymous said...

Regarding B-12, a study of Jains, the only cultural Vegans I know of, indicated they obtained their B-12 not from the soil on the plants but rather from the insect parts found in their rice, beans, lentils, etc. So really, the Jain vegans are not vegans after all.

James said...

Well, as Pies and zoe pointed out, you have to consider whether the PCRM is a biased source. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. What irritated me was that you said you were opposed to cancer research simply because some of it relied on animal testing. As Plan 9 Studios said, not all of it relies on animal research. So to make such a sweeping blanket statement was ill-informed and, to me at least, was still in bad taste.

Anonymous said...

Several have already said this, but PCRM is quite biased on the issue. Regardless of the legitimacy of the research itself, the presentation of the research will lean towards veganism and vegetarianism and away from omnivorous diets.

Aardwolf said...

This vegetarian cartoonist supports you Dan! 60% of my diet is raw vegetables i grow in my own garden

Christina said...

Rates for at least six common types of cancer, country by country, correlate with the consumption of animal source food. A variety of phytochemicals present in plant foods have been demonstrated to be protective against the DNA damage that leads to cancer.

This information is researched by William Harris, M.D.

The MDs advocating a plant based eating due to ethical and/or health concerns are far more credible and they have tons of science to back them up.

The China Study, by Dr. Cambell, is something that the New York Times has recognized the study (China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project) as the "Grand Prix of epidemiology" and the "most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease."

The findings? "People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease ... People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored," said Dr. Campbell.

In The China Study, Dr. Campbell details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and also its ability to reduce or reverse the risk or effects of these deadly illnesses. The China Study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and irresponsible scientists.

Do you really think these organizations want a cure or a cause? There's too much money to be made.

Susan B. Komen: Hala G. Moddelmog, President, CEO, Compensation: $531,924 per year

Mauricio S. said...

Dear Mr Piraro,

There is a science essay by Isaac Asimov called "The Enemy Within" about the big C that I particularly like: In many circles it is believed that cancer is caused only by human behaviour, such as smoking, eating burnt foods or breathing asbestos dust. In his essay, Asimov considers the naturally occurring radioactive isotopes in the human body, such as potassium 40 and carbon 14, and the threat these pose. He does the math and points out that the DNA in six of our cells is disrupted by natural radioactive decay every second. Everyday of our lives about 85 000 of our cells are given the opportunity to mutate and start a cancer.
He then goes and ponders about the impact of a "low carbon" diet.

The link between lung cancer and smoking fits well with this observation. So does a "heavy" diet where food takes forever to digest, or excessive eating, where you carry in your intestines stuff that you don't need inside of your body.
A veggie, or light and fast transit diet makes sense to me.

I just thought of sharing this.

Mr Piraro, I really like your work.

Anonymous said...

I believe that half the cancer causing doo-dads in meat eating is in all the crap that we put into our slaughter animals, hormones, pesticide laden feed and other crap.

Michael Lagace said...

Regarding what Anonymous wrote -- (people give their kids such goofy names these days) -- about Jainists not being vegan. Based on what I've read, from equally cited studies, Jainists as well as other ancient agri-centric cultures have been known to fertilize their soil with their own manure, which provides them with sufficient B12. B12, after all, is not some magical vitamin found in animals; it's a bacteria that most commonly forms on dead matter.

The question arises though, if someone considers themselves vegan but consumes, say, insects knowingly, does that disqualify them from being a perfect vegan? And who wants to be perfect anyway, I'm just trying to do the best I can with all the information I have to do as little harm as possible in my life.

Plan 9 Studios said...

Just re-read my post. When I said, "Don't make the argument. It just makes you look dumb." The "you" was meant in an arbitrary, generalized, not-me definition; not directed at anyone in particular. But if I ever use the phrase, "That one," I'll most certainly be referring to Obama.

Unknown said...


Hamburgers are killing me! Help!!!