08 July 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: The right foods improve cancer prevention and survival

This week we show how innovative statistics are revealing which ones do the job! Also, Ruth and I are giving talks in Katoomba and Sydney this week, there is another study that demonstrates colorectal cancer survivors who consume the most red or processed meat are around 30% more likely to die over a 7.5-year follow-up, and then a must see video link! But first

Thought for the day
If you do not take care of your body, 
where are you going to live?
                    Karen Duffy, American actress with sarcoidosis

It is an exciting time in cancer research with a rapidly escalating number of reputable articles demonstrating how specific foods can add or subtract years from the lives of people after they are diagnosed with cancer.

We have known for a long time that unhealthy food is the number one item linked to cancer risk. Similarly we know from heaps of research that healthy food provides major cancer prevention.

Yet for so many years I remember hearing cancer authorities telling people diagnosed with cancer and the public alike there was no evidence once you developed cancer that what you ate would make any difference. Anyone who was to say that in this day and age would either be ill-informed or would need to overlook a substantial body of evidence to the contrary. (For just a small sample of some of this evidence, see some of my earlier blogs that bring it together.)

However, there are real challenges for researchers endeavouring to sort out which foods are most destructive, which most helpful. Enter epidemiologist Patrick Bradshaw, PhD.

“One of the major limitations of studying diet is that food nutrients are so intertwined and complex, particularly the way we eat them, it’s difficult to tease apart the effect of a single nutrient,” said Bradshaw.

The traditional method of analysing nutrient data is to examine them one at a time, one analysis for vitamin C, one for vitamin E and so on.

“The trouble is, nutrients tend to be consumed together, so if you see an effect, it’s hard to say which one it was for. If you analyse them simultaneously the statistical models tend to not work well.”

Bradshaw has a background in biostatistics and so he has developed innovative statistical methods that place the focus on dietary patterns rather than individual nutrients. He uses a form of analysis called hierarchical modelling that incorporates biologically plausible actions for each set of nutrients.

“We can apply this methodology to integrate biology into an analysis that looks at a whole lot of things together that can be correlated.” Results are proving to be very interesting.

On the prevention side, a study he led last year found that consuming a dietary pattern high in vegetables, fruits and lean meats was linked to a lower risk of pharyngeal and oral cavity cancers; a diet high in fatty, fried foods, sweets and processed meats was associated with an increased risk of laryngeal cancer.

Then for those already diagnosed, last year he found that breast cancer survivors who gained the most weight post-diagnosis had a greater risk of death from any cause as well as from breast cancer compared to women survivors who remained the same weight at diagnosis.

The reason behind this weight gain among survivors is not well understood, says Bradshaw, and it is something that he is working to understand.

Another area of survivorship he is focusing on is physical activity. Here, the research is consistent, with most studies finding activity benefits survival.

“It looks like women who get physical activity, in particular in those early years of diagnosis, tend to have a better prognosis - they had a reduced mortality rate, which I think could be a powerful message for cancer survivors. I’m really interested in what is happening during those early years. Those are the formative years in terms of breast cancer survivorship.”

 “I would like to hope that my research is informing something that people can employ on a daily basis that can make their lives healthier.”

Reference: May 15, 2013 issue  AICR's Cancer Research Update.


Let food be your medicine - Part 1

Let food be your medicine - Part 2

Please let friends or family in these areas know of this week’s events. Share the links for details:

July 9; Day workshop: Health, Healing and Wellbeing

July 13 - 14, Weekend workshop: A New Way of Living


1. Thirty years presenting annually at the one place. An obsession or a delight? Well, 30 years at the Relaxation Centre have gone very quickly and it has been a pleasure to be a fixture on their calendar. Here is my old friend Lionel Fifield introducing me. He claims we look just like we did 30 years ago. He always was an optimist!!!

2. Foods can make you ill. Oh really!! Well yes, it seems they can, and this is an excellent website whose purpose is to provide you with information and resources on food intolerance and food allergy. From what I read, it does a pretty good job! Worth a visit, LINK HERE


Red and Processed Meat Intake Linked to Death for People with Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer survivors who consume the most red or processed meat are more likely to die over a 7.5-year follow-up, compared with those who eat the least, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society.

Researchers analyzed the diet records of 2,315 participants from the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort and found a 29 percent higher risk of death from all causes and a 63 percent higher risk of death from heart disease for those who consumed the most red and processed meat before diagnosis, compared with those who ate the least.

REFERENCE: McCullough ML, Campbell PT et al. J Clin Onc. Published ahead of print July 1, 2013.

Thanks to Philip Woolen’s mum for this truly beautiful video of a deaf man flying 3 kites accompanied by the sublime Flower Duet from Lakme. When he flies spectators hold their hands up and wave them for applause. He flies 2 with his hands and the 3rd kite is attached to his waist. He is in his 80s.

Do yourself a favour. Chill out for 5 minutes and stay to watch to the end so you see the amazing landing of that last kite! LINK HERE


  1. Hi Ian,
    A wonderful informative blog that always gives me hope. But what a finale those kites and those amazing voices.You might be on the road but you still manage to keep us all riveted.
    Many thanks, Linda

  2. Nice piece of information.. Check this out I found useful information here about colorectal cancer and the treatment process

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