Till a few years ago cancer – and specially any breakthroughs in curing it – hogged the health news headlines. Now, that space has been taken up by AIDS. But it is important to remember that even now cancer kills a thousand more people than AIDS.

Much of our research in India is derivative – based on the work done in the premier research medical research institutions in America. Our best cancer doctors depend to a large extent on solutions and medicines provided by America. So let me give you a few statistics on what America has achieved. The National Cancer Institute spends 3 million dollars a day on research. The American Cancer Society spends one million a day. In spite of that the death rate from the common cancers – cancers of the lung, colon, breast, prostrate, pancreas and ovary – have stayed the same or increased in the last 50 years. Every 30 seconds an American is diagnosed with having the disease, every 55 seconds an American dies of cancer.

There are two ways to deal with cancer:

  • To find the cure- and this, tragically, has taken most of the world’s time and money
  • To learn how to prevent it.

The Director of the National Cancer Institute was asked by the United States Senate Select Committee in Nutrition and Human Needs about how many cancers were caused by diet. He replied: Up to 50 percent”. Repeat the answer –up to 50 percent. And, what, the Senate wanted to know, are the dietary factors that influence cancer. Chemical additives ? Preservatives? Artificial colours ? No. These are not the chief culprits. Dr Gio B. Gori, Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Diet Nutrition and Cancer Programme replied: “The dietary factors responsible are principally meat and fat intake.”

Harvard University nutritional scientists hold the meat, dairy and egg industry responsible for many forms of cancer, chiefly breast and colon.

The journal of the National Cancer Institute noted that “there is not a single population in the world with a high meat intake which does not have a high rate of colon cancer.” The meat industry in America retaliated with “Populations that got colon cancer had hereditary predispositions”. But a study done on Japanese in Japan who ate less meat and were known to have less colon cancer and a study on immigrant Japanese who had embarked on the high meat patterns of their adopted country showed the latter had the same high colon cancer rates as the other Americans.

Still further research isolated two more factors:

  • the more fat people consume , the greater their risk of colon cancer.
  • the less fibre in a person’s diet the more likely he/she is to get colon cancer.

Meat, eggs and dairy products are high in fat and have no fibre whatsoever.

What does fibre do? It helps minimise the damage caused by animal fat. It acts like a broom sweeping things along in the intestine. Animal fats are solid at body temperature. So, if fibre is left out of the diet, this solid fat clogs up the intestines and the length of time your food takes to pass the large intestine increases (in any case the large intestine is far too long for meat. All meat eating animals have short chutes. We have the large intestine of vegetarian animals). The longer the transit time, the more opportunity for the bowel walls to reabsorb the toxins the body is trying to eliminate.

What is the fibre content of the following: beef, steak, lamb chops, pork chops, chicken, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, paneer? Zero. In contrast all vegetables, fruit and cereals (except white rice) have an excellent percentage of fibre.

How many India people in the cities where meat eating is far more prevalent get colonic cancer? The Indian Council of Medical Research, the premier cancer computing body in India did a study from 1990 to 1996 based on 5 cities and 1 rural area (Barshi). These are the findings from single, albeit the largest, hospitals in the areas:

  • Colon cancer is on the increase.
  • Males have about 1.5 times the incidence of females.
  • However it is the 10th leading site of cancer in females.
  • There is an upward trend of colon cancer.

Mumbai has the highest rate of colon cancer (845 male cases and 623 female cases in a single hospital) followed by Delhi (543 m and 357 fm), Bangalore and Bhopal. Compared to that the rural area, Barshi, had only 9 cases.

No one gets colonic cancer till they are after thirty. After that, the years of bad eating start taking their toll. About 2% of the female cancer cases and 4% of the male cancer cases in India are of the colon. What is the average survival rate for colon cancers? Five years.

So easily prevented!!

Maneka Gandhi

*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*