Category Archives: Cancer

Starting the conversation

19th October 2017

I am giving a presentation at this conference in London on the 25th of November, if any of the readers of this blog are interested in attending, it would be great to see you there. This is mainly in the area of cancer, but I am looking at how we have reached a situation where hugely expensive ‘pharma developed drugs’ are widely used, when many are completely ineffective. However, novel ideas, new ways of looking at cancer, are blocked at every turn.

Sunbathing is good for you

News announcer: ‘We interrupt the series of blogs on ‘what causes heart disease’ to bring you (slightly delayed), breaking news from Sweden… Sunbathing is good for you. Shock horror etc.’

Someone sent me this news story today, and I thought I should share it with you. For many, many, years I have been telling people that lying in the sun, getting a nice tan, is one of the healthiest things you can do. Despite the howls of anguish from all dermatologists telling us that one photon of sunlight is one photon too many. ‘You will cause people to die from skin cancer.’ Ho hum:

Why do sunbathers live longer than those who avoid the sun?

New research looks into the paradox that women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun, even though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

An analysis of information on 29,518 Swedish women who were followed for 20 years revealed that longer life expectancy among women with active sun exposure habits was related to a decrease in heart disease and noncancer/non-heart disease deaths, causing the relative contribution of death due to cancer to increase.

Whether the positive effect of sun exposure demonstrated in this observational study is mediated by vitamin D, another mechanism related to UV radiation, or by unmeasured bias cannot be determined. Therefore, additional research is warranted.

“We found smokers in the highest sun exposure group were at a similar risk as non-smokers avoiding sun exposure, indicating avoidance of sun exposure to be a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking,” said Dr. Pelle Lindqvist, lead author of the Journal of Internal Medicine study. “Guidelines being too restrictive regarding sun exposure may do more harm than good for health.”1

There is a point here I think I should repeat… avoiding the sun is as risky for your overall health and life expectancy, as smoking. Which is pretty damned amazing? It has been estimated that smoking reduces life expectancy by six, on average. Thus, if you sunbathe regularly, it seems you can expect to live six years longer.

If I may indulge myself by quoting from my book ‘Doctoring Data’ on this very topic:

‘How about frightening people to stay out of the sun, or slap on factor 50 cream at the first suspicion that a deadly photon may sneak through 10 layers of protective clothing. Not necessarily a good idea, because without vitamin D synthesis in the skin, from exposure to the sun, there is significant danger that we can become vitamin D deficient, which can lead to all sort of other problems.

Here are just two stand-out facts from a major study in the Annals of Epidemiology entitled ‘Vitamin D for Cancer prevention.’

  • Women with higher solar UVB exposure had only half the incidence of breast cancer as those with lower solar exposure
  • Men with higher residential solar exposure had only half the incidence rate of fatal prostate cancer

To put that in simple English. If you spend longer in the sun, you may be far less likely to die of breast and prostate cancer. But what about the increased risk of dying of skin cancer! I have you cry. Well, what of it. Around 2,000 people a year die of malignant melanoma in the UK each year. It increased sun exposure were to double this figure we would have 2000 more cases.

On the other hand, breast cancer kills around 20,00 a year, as does prostate cancer. If we managed to halve the rate of breast and prostate cancer, we would reduce cancer deaths by 20,000 a year. Which is ten times as great as any potential increase in deaths from malignant melanoma.’

To what I wrote in Doctoring Data, I would further add that sun exposure is the best known way of increasing NO synthesis throughout the body. This protects the endothelium and, as you would expect, lowers blood pressure (the natural way). So, you are far less likely to die from CVD.

What this study highlights, once again (as with all advice on diet), what we are told to do by mainstream medical research, turns out to be actively damaging to health. Will advice on sun exposure now change? There is not the slightest, tiniest, possibility of this happening. Evidence has no impact on the pronouncements of the medical profession (at least not over the average human lifespan).

The only possible change I can see is that, whilst we will continue be hectored to stay out of the sun, at all possible costs, we will be advised to take vitamin D supplementation to make up for lack of sun exposure (even though there is little or no evidence that it actually does any good).

My advice is, and has always been. Sunshine is good for you. I have been saying this for twenty years. Ten years ago, whilst writing for Pulse Magazine in the UK I wrote an article called ‘Sunshine is good for you.’ I finished with the following:

Ponder this

I shall leave you to ponder the results of a study looking at people diagnosed with malignant melanomas, and then followed for five years.

‘Results: Sunburn, high intermittent sun exposure, skin awareness histories and solar elastosis were statistically significantly inversely associated with death from melanoma’

‘Conclusion: Sun exposure is associated with increased survival from melanoma.2

Did I say that sunshine is good for you? It even prevents malignant melanoma.




The full study is: Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort, P. G. Lindqvist, E. Epstein, K. Nielsen, M. Landin-Olsson, C. Ingvar and H. Olsson, Journal of Internal Medicine, doi: 10.1111/joim.12496, published online 16 March 2016.

2: Berwick M et al: Sun exposure and mortality from melanoma. J Natl Cancer Inst: 2005 Feb 2, 973(3):195-9

A victory

Here is the title of a scientific paper that will make your eyes glaze over

‘Randomized Phase II Study of 5-Fluorouracil Hepatic Arterial Infusion with or without Antineoplastons as an Adjuvant Therapy after Hepatectomy for Liver Metastases from Colorectal Cancer.’

It was published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) on the 19th of March, and I danced a little jig of happiness. For I helped these researchers get this paper published, a battle that has taken well over a year. Just to blow my trumpet a little, here are the Acknowledgements:

‘We thank all patients who consented to participate in this study and Dr SR Burzynski for free supply of antineoplastons for this study. We appreciate greatly the editorial assistance provided by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, Central and Eastern Cheshire Primary Care Trust, UK.’

In truth, my wife did most of the heavy lifting in editing the paper, whilst I took all the credit. Oh well, such is life. I shall buy her a bunch of flowers from the local petrol station.

I realise that, at this point, you have not the slightest idea what I am talking about, so I shall step you back in time. Three years ago, or thereabouts, I was speaking to Pete Cohen. He is a life coach and health guru, and all round good guy. He told me about his partner who had developed a brain tumour, gliobastoma. I hasten to add I am not giving away patient confidentiality here, Pete has written about this, and blogged about it many times.

Hannah had received orthodox treatment in the UK, but the prognosis was still very poor. These tumours are very difficult to eradicate, and usually recur quite quickly. To quote a recent paper ‘Median survival times of all patients diagnosed in the 2000-2003 and 2005-2008 periods were 8.1 and 9.7 months.’ 1

An ‘average’ survival time of about nine months is a very depressing thought. (Although it tends to be a bit longer in younger patients). Pete then spent a great deal of time effort, and eventually money, trying to find an alternative treatment. An oncologist, who will never be named, suggested Pete looked at the results from Dr Burzynski’s clinic in Texas.

The results certainly looked impressive, and Pete’s partner started on infusions of antineoplastons, which Burzynski has been using for patients with glioblastomas for many years. Some of you may have heard of Burzynski, for he is regularly condemned as being a complete dangerous maverick. A man who plays on parent’s desperate need for someone to help their children suffering from terminal brain cancer etc.

If you look Burzynski up on the internet there is a complete diatribe of vitriol rains down upon him. Put him in the Andrew Wakefield camp. The BBC assassinated his character in a half hour programme a couple of years ago. To read what is written of him, you would think he is the sort of man who would happily pitchfork babies into the back of a lorry.

However, as someone who is regularly attacked for being a maverick myself, I consider attacks from mainstream medicine, and the media to be a badge of honour, and I pay little attention to such things. I like to look into things myself, and make my own mind up. Clearly some of those attacked for being dangerous mavericks are, indeed, dangerous mavericks. Others are not. Into which camp did Burzinski fall, I wondered?

The first thing about Burzynski’s treatment was that, in Hannah’s case, it seemed to be working. The tumour had gone. As least it was no longer detectable on MRI scans. It has still gone, and Hannah remains well. Will it remain in remission forever? I know not.

Of course a single case is not proof, never is, never will be. But recurrence free survival of several years is extremely uncommon in Gliobastoma, so a single case is rather more powerful evidence than in many other conditions. I then communicated with Burzynski and gained access to his many, many, case histories. Whilst many patients did die, a significant number were surviving longer than would be expected. In some cases patients were alive twenty years later.

I agreed to write up a number of his case histories and got some of them published here and there. It was always a battle do so, batting away objection after objection. Have no doubt that the ‘authorities’ know exactly who Burzinski is, and they do what they they can to stop anything he does being published, anywhere. Often there was just blank refusal to publish anything, once the name was seen.

I was then contacted by someone, who shall currently remain nameless, who told me that a group of Japanese researchers had done work on antineoplastons as adjuvant (add-one) therapy for patients with liver metastases following colorectal cancer. They did not know how, or where, to publish it. So I agreed to look at it, and try and get it published in a peer-reviewed journal.

They were turned down by Lancet Oncology (no surprise), and a couple of other journals. I suggested PLOS (Public Library of Science), which has a high impact and tends to be a bit more open to non-mainstream articles. So we sat down to write, rewrite, edit, alter and adapt.

To be honest, I have never, ever come across so many objections by the peer reviewers. Stuff that was so trivial, so difficult to answer. Re-write, re-write, re-write. Water down the conclusions. I thought by the end of it, nothing would be left, although the most important points did, just about, survive.

Of course this was not a study on gliobastoma, but it was a carefully controlled (not placebo controlled, as that would be impossible) study of high quality. Setting out to answer the question, can antineoplastons benefit patients suffering late stage cancer?

The answer is that they can. They work. They are not a miracle cure; they are not the answer to cancer. But they have clear and clinically significant benefits. So Burzinski is not a maverick… well, he is a maverick, but his (terribly named) antineoplastons significant effects in cancer. So he is the right sort of maverick, in that he is challenging the status quo – and he is right.

Will his work now be accepted, will Burzynski ever be allowed to treat patients again? Probably not. So, a victory, but probably a small one. Meanwhile, in the UK, Charles Saatchi’s efforts to allow ‘mavericks’ to try and treat cancer are being well and truly crushed. ‘We have enough innovation’ is the cry – by the establishment – that most innovative of groups.

I would counter-argue that innovation by large University departments, and pharmaceutical companies, is not really, innovation at all. They just plough the same old furrows, looking to unearth the occasional goody that was missed in the past.

Their most fervent wish is to cry ‘Eureka’ (I have found it – the thing that I knew was there). The true maverick, however, is on a restless quest for ‘that’s funny.’ For only in the ‘that’s funny’ moments does science truly progress.