27 October 2014

You Can Conquer Cancer turns 30

“You don’t know me but  ….  “ Ruth and I were walking down the main street of outback Burketown recently when this middle-aged lady rather shyly, almost apologetically approached us “ …  your book saved my life”. Meetings like this happen to us regularly and sometimes in the most exotic or unlikely of places.

This then is a blog about inspiration; and a tip – you do not need cancer to be inspired! Speaking personally, I find it incredibly inspiring to have people come up to me literally all around the world with tales of how You Can Conquer Cancer helped them or someone they loved.

It is actually deeply humbling to know that a book I put together and was launched 30 years ago this October by Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, patron of the Cancer Council, has remained in continuous print since. It has been translated into over a dozen languages and sold around 300,000 copies.

The latest edition is about to be printed in the lands of the superpowers - USA, China, England and Russia - amongst other countries.

Pausing to consider why this might be so, it seems clear to me that while the book had its genesis in my own experience of recovering from cancer and while there is good science behind it, the book was clarified through the intense and indeed, intimate experience of helping so many other people affected by cancer through the groups that I was personally involved with.

Through these groups it became possible to notice what worked for people – what words worked, what diet, what form of meditation, how to be positive in the face of major adversity; indeed what being positive really means, how to use the power of the mind for healing and so on.

So the real credit for the book goes to all those who attended the hundreds of groups that have come together over these last 30 years. The hope is that each of you who has been involved can take some pride in the book and the fact that what we learnt together has been of so much benefit to so many others.

This post is intended as a celebration and a source of real inspiration, but first

        Thought for the day

   Greater than the tread of mighty armies 
   is an idea whose time has come

                       Victor Hugo 

As the 30th anniversary of You Can Conquer Cancer approached, many people wrote to me sharing their experiences with the book and so I have recounted several of them here, using initials for most (my choice), rather than full names. It makes for a long article, intended to be dipped into as a precious resource of inspiration. Something you can share with others and come back to yourself when the need to be reminded of the
possibilities is there.

Many thanks to all who contributed, and a special gratitude to the book’s publisher Michelle Anderson, who told me she felt goose bumps run down her spine when she first read it and has been such a delight to work with over these past 30 years. 

Here then are the stories

Healthy living, less stress
30 yrs ago this book was recommend to me not because of cancer but as a guide to living a healthier life and providing a way forward through the stress of the many years of constant major grief I was experiencing.

"You Can Conquer Cancer" and "Peace of Mind " have been my "go to" books over all these years. Meditation has kept me sane and grounded through the toughest of crises. Last year I realised that stress was again insidiously creeping in and taking hold of me culminating in a diagnosis of a pre cancerous condition.

How to deal with it ? An easy decision - straight back to "You Can Conquer Cancer" and a reassessment of life. Your last two blogs re healing have been enormously helpful - thank you !

I also delight in that recently my 25yr old son expressed an interest in relaxation meditation and your books provided the tools he needed to learn these vital life skills

Kind Regards

Taking ownership of health and healing
I first read this book in the late 1980’s when my cousin was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Many years later in 2004, the book was sitting on my shelf when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My diagnosis was a huge shock, but knowing that “there was something else out there” that I could do to help myself was very empowering and was a huge boost to my confidence at a very difficult time.

I bought the latest edition of the book and devoured it; using it to support the treatment that I was having through my specialist. I learnt to meditate, reassessed the priorities in my life and paid great attention to what I was eating and drinking. Under the guidance of the book I took ownership of my health and healing and of my life as a whole.

I now give this book to friends, family and acquaintances upon a cancer diagnosis. I found it to be life-changing and I want to share the wisdom and hope with others, especially at that vulnerable stage following a cancer diagnosis.

I highly recommend the book to anyone facing, or caring for someone with cancer. However, the contents are so clearly outlined and so easily digestible that I feel that the book is just as pertinent for anyone who wishes to reassess and turn their life around with or without a current health challenge.


A little book of hope
Without this little book of hope I am sure I would not be here today.

In 1996 I was diagnosed with a grade 4 non hodgkins lymphoma with spleen, skin and bone marrow involvement. It goes without saying that at that time I had very little hope apart from palliative chemo, which would perhaps give me a little more time, it was the best I option I had.

We were first given “You Can Conquer Cancer” about 1 month after diagnosis and it shone like a beacon for me in what can only be described as a very dark time for myself and my wife.

My wife read the book in one night, she had a eureka moment and thought that this book had been written about me. We jumped in head first. It took some time to clear out the cupboards and source organic supplies. It was 1996 and organic food was a lot harder to source, it was certainly not integrated into supermarkets etc like it is today.

The information in You Can Conquer Cancer is so incredible, it really is a self help book with trusted and proven advice to follow, advice which we did follow to the letter.

We did follow up with a ten day Residential Program at the Yarra Valley Living Centre to fine tune what we were doing but really ”You Can Conquer Cancer” provided a step by step guide for us to follow.

I know that in no small way the diet and meditation that Ian recommends has enabled me to be cancer free for 18 years, I continue to follow the lifestyle that was advocated all those years ago and like Ian and so many others I am living proof of its efficacy.

We recommend this book to anyone who contacts us re my recovery. It is such a common sense, achievable instruction manual which is still relevant all these years later.
Congratulations Ian and our heartfelt thanks for what you have done for us and so many others.
R and J L

Three gifts
‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ gave me

Hope when I had lost it

Power when I felt very small

Inner strength when my world imploded.

A profoundly important and life-saving book with PRACTICAL IDEAS!!!!
The first port of call for anyone with a cancer diagnosis.

Liz Vercoe

YA author ‘Keep Your Hair On!’ and ‘The Grief Book – Strategies for Young People’

Hope, courage and belief
In 1998, six months after my wonderful husband of 32 years died suddenly from a massive heart attack (he went to golf and did not come home) I was diagnosed with cancer.

At the time I really did not care much whether I lived or died.

I had an operation, two large tumours were removed, and I was told they were gone and the cancer would not come back again.  The pathology showed I had leiomyosarcoma – which is a very rare smooth muscle cancer.

I realise now the doctors did not know very much about this cancer and my oncologist had not treated a case before.  I was told I would not require further scans or treatment, and so very slowly my life started to feel normal again and I realised my family needed me – losing their father created a  huge hole in their lives.

By 2003 I was planning a future to be married again.  I knew I did not feel well, I was bloated and uncomfortable.  I finally found a doctor who listened to me and sent me for a scan.  The cancer was back with a vengeance and had spread to other parts of my body.

My oncologist delivered the news “I had six months to live, twelve if I was lucky, and there was nothing anyone could do for me.”  This time I was devastated, I wanted to live.  I did not know where to turn.  I met my girlfriend for lunch and she said “don’t cry love and she handed me a copy of “You Can Conquer Cancer.”

I had never heard of Ian or The Gawler Foundation, but somehow this seemed as though it was something I must do.  I rang The Foundation and was about the last person to be accepted for the 10 day Life and Living Program, there was not even room for my partner to attend as a support person.

I attended the May 2003 session and to start with I could not stop crying, but by the end of those wonderful 10 days the tears had disappeared and I came away from The Foundation with some HOPE.  With the hope comes courage and the will to keep searching and the belief that I was not powerless.

There was so much I could do to help myself, but because there was so much cancer in my body, I knew I needed a surgeon who was willing to operate to give me a chance.  It was a long journey over the next two years.  I continued the Gawler program faithfully until it became a comforting way of life for me.

The cancer did not progress in the way it was supposed to do.   I consulted with four oncologists and eight surgeons in Melbourne, who all told me “there was a high risk of morbidity and mortality and operating would not alter the course of the disease.”

I travelled to China for Traditional Chinese Medicine and there I met an American surgeon who told me the operation I needed was being done in the States.  This gave me new hope and a belief that there must be someone in Australia who could do it.  Finally I found a Professor in Sydney, a wonderful man, who operated and said everywhere he saw cancer he took it.  It was a long recovery from a massive operation, but throughout, with my partner’s help, I thrived on the food and juices, I meditated continually and I did not think about “not getting well.”

Today I am living quite well with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – no one is sure how this turned up, but it is a work in progress and it has been completely stable for the last nine years.  There is no sign of the sarcoma, if there was, I would not be alive today.

I am truly grateful to Ian and Ruth for giving me another chance at life, and the knowledge you really can conquer cancer.   Every week there is a so-called new scientific report about cancer breakthrough, and I say to my family “Ian has been saying that for years”.

With loving thanks,


My healing “Bible”
When I met my chemical oncologist for first time I found out that before the surgery my survival chances would have been 20% and after the surgery they would have been raised to 50%. So, my wonderful oncologist told me that they – the medical staff – would fight for those 50% and I would be responsible for the balance. I felt I was in a black hole! How would I balance out all the knowledge of those highly qualified specialists!?

I read the book You Can Conquer Cancer for first time in December 2002. I was recovering from a big surgery of an advanced and aggressive ovarian cancer and I had a three week-holiday in New Zealand between two sessions of chemotherapy. I did not understand much of the book’s content. I only had in my mind that this was my last holiday as I was going to die.

And then, in February 2003, I started a twelve week “Cancer Self Help Group” activity and Siegfried helped me to understand the book, chapter by chapter. The book soon became my Bible and I found out the way to balance the 50% of  responsibilities to keep myself alive and happy.

I have definitely “lived” with cancer for the last 12 years due to my wonderful oncologists and your philosophy of life which I have totally embraced. I feel compelled to add that the retreats, workshops & conferences that I attended at the Foundation were exceptionally useful.

There was a special workshop I have to mention: “A New Way of Living” in May 2013. At that time, I was feeling quite right and in a good mood. During Q&A time, I did ask you what you were going to do in the unfortunate case of a cancer relapse. Your answer was totally unexpected: “I will read my book.” I said: “I did it many times”. And you said: “Do it now, when you are not in crisis mode, and read the last version.”

That was the best advice I have had from you. The 2013 edition of the book was and still is a revelation for me. I read it with such great joy! I am impressed!

One more little thing: I would like to mention the Lady A. I met her at the meditation sessions at Nancy’s place. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer just when you had published your first book and was in her late sixties at that time. She had decided that if you did it, she also could do it and had followed your steps religiously.

When I first met her she was 98 year-old, free of cancer and sharing with everyone that she was alive due to you and your book. She passed away peacefully a couple of weeks before her centenary.

The one handed typist
In 1981 I found a lump in my breast. What made me check I do not know. It was not the norm then. I was not concerned, my Dr and the surgeon both thought it a cyst, however, I went to hospital for a biopsy and learnt the awful truth.

I cannot explain the feelings I had, only another cancer patient would understand.
My whole family was blown away. I was only 34 and back then assumed hopeless.
I had three children, Tracey, 13, Lindy, 11 and Penny 6, and my husband stuck with me all the way.

We made the decision to change our lifestyle to lots of fresh air and the peace of a small farm, and whilst I was in hospital having the breast removed we bought a hobby farm. I gave away all commitments and concentrated on getting well.

After a week in hospital the full impact hit me. I had put off showering, but when I finally did look down where my breast had been, it was gut wrenching. I will always remember the feeling at that time of having no femininity (it did return though).

It was a lonely time, friends avoided me; I loved my netball and missed it. I finally did get back to it but would cover my boob with my arm whilst playing.

I worried I would not see my girls grow up; I spent as much time as I could with them trying to be “normal”.

I went to Peter Mac for 6 weeks of radiation treatment, three of those weeks we tried to make it a family holiday for the children. I travelled from a flat in Frankston each day.

I very slowly accepted things, for a while every lump on my body was suspect in my sensitive state. My surgeon, reassured me on many occasions, he was very good to me. I tried to find someone who had survived, but patient confidentiality stopped me at every turn. My Mum happened to meet a lady who had breast cancer 30 years ago and obviously survived and this was a turning point me.

I found walking in the bush soothing so spent a lot of time there.

To fill out my bra I used a pair of socks. Every morning you wake with cancer on your mind, then, one day I realised I had forgotten my socks! Wow, I was very excited. This meant it was off my mind for a short time; this also was a big step, as it could only get longer.

Later whilst on holiday in Merimbula I lost my prosthesis in the water and the girls had great fun duck diving for it. I still laugh about that.

My scar and mind began to heal and a new operation was being trialled to reconstruct the breast. I agreed only if nothing foreign was put in my body, so a muscle was brought around under my arm and shaped like a breast. It was not done without trouble as I got gangrene in the wound when I returned home. My surgeon to my rescue again.

The girls would check me out when having a bath, not a pretty sight, but took it in their stride; they do not remember now, thankfully. We celebrated anniversaries yearly and still do.

Through all this I got in touch with the Gawler Foundation, Ian had just started his healing work and it struck a chord with me. I have his tapes and I played them over and over again, and his people were always very supportive. I still remember hearing the cars go by as he was taping. I will always appreciate the help he gave me.

He taught me to use my mind in the healing process, each time I ordered a cassette a hand written note was always enclosed to ask how I was, this helped me so much.

After trial and error I found carrot juice useful; I bought carrots by the bagful. I turned orange at one stage, and Vitamin B also assisted me.

I prayed a lot and church was soothing. I do have faith in God.

I was a jogger for years, and when I was coming good I started again. I had lost all confidence and frightened my new boob would fall off, but I persisted.

I would search for positives every day. A rainbow would inspire me. I would look at big gum trees with branches broken off and think, they grow big and strong after loosing a limb, so I can too. I had a poster I looked at every morning, ”Help me to remember Lord, that nothing will happen today, that you and I can't handle together”

Ten years after radiation I lost the use of part of my arm and right hand, treatment not as precise back then, and a nerve was damaged, continual pins and needles and numbness. I do not feel burns and cuts so a few scars on my hand.

So onto the next stage, I enrolled at TAFE to get dexterity by typing with my left hand. My teacher Judy was a great help and support. I painstakingly started to learn to write left-handed, I still have trouble with the “z” back to front. Doing things with one hand is frustrating, but a small price to pay.

I now ride a lot and all controls are on the left hand side, I have even ridden to Sydney and back.

I did write to “freedom of information” and found out I had a very aggressive cancer.

There is a lot of support out there now. Use it. You will know in your gut what is right for you. It is so nice to see the very high percentage of cure nowadays.

I write these words to encourage others to do it your way, only you know what will work for you, go with your own gut feeling.

I am ecstatic to have seen my girls grow into responsible caring adults with their own children. I did not think I would see that happen.

I have been blessed.


Moving on and helping others
Eleven years ago I was diagnosed at a young age with an aggressive and rare form of breast cancer, and my whole life was turned upside down.

Soon after I was diagnosed I went to find some answers, anything that would help me figure out what I could do to help myself. I came across the book by Ian Gawler ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ and a light bulb went off. I opened the book and read “This is a book about what works. What works if you want to fight for your life. Recover from cancer. Prevent illness. Be really well. Find enduring peace and happiness.”

In that moment I remember feeling so happy and so relieved because I knew I had the tools within this book to begin the fight for my own life I and I gave myself permission to be in control. My life changed in that instant and for the better. If I had not read those words that particular day and really resonated with what Ian had written, I may not be here today.

I have been so inspired by this that I have created a health and wellness online store dedicated to helping people navigate cancer and ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ is of course top of our book list. Thank you Ian for your years of tireless work and research in this field, I and thousands of others around the world are truly grateful that you chose to share the story of your survival."

Yasmin Farry

Third time lucky! 
I had Breast cancer in 2000 and after a total mastectomy and loads of positive thinking etc I survived that and I had a total recovery. I had a brain cancer in 2004 requiring surgical removal and this was followed in 2005 by a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma which is incurable. This required drastic chemo and stem cell transplants and I was out of action for many months.

During this time a friend gave me a copy of “You Can Conquer Cancer” and this was my turning point. I began reading it and the more I read the more confident I became. I began meditation, something I had never done before, I found I was able to focus on getting over this terrible thing and putting it behind me. I read it and read it. I took it with me everywhere I went and gradually I found myself being able to cope with my cancer.

I am sure that the reason I am alive today is because my friend gave me the book 9 years ago when I was at my lowest time. I am now in complete remission and I never go away from home without my “You Can Conquer Cancer” book and I am now 100% certain of the power of one’s mind.

Thank you so much Ian Gawler for having empowered me and hundreds of others to conquer cancer. Have attended both your seminars in Adelaide and all I can do is say

Thank you


Cancer survivors? Cancer thrivers!

You Can Conquer Cancer

Ruth and I are back at Mana retreat centre on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Great environment, great facilities, terrific staff and the food is exceptional as well. Such a good place to support a meditation retreat.

Here is the view from the meditation sanctuary!!!

23 October 2014

Is soy safe? – part 2

As you tuck into a delightful tofu and veggie stir-fry, or maybe even some tofu ice-cream, is there a lingering doubt? Is this really doing me good? Am I contributing to the prevention of breast and prostate cancer, or am I, as some would have us believe, contributing to their increased likelihood?

If so, you need the answer to this question: Do the phyto-oestrogens in soybeans act like oestrogen or Tamoxifen? Need a full explanation? Let us go Out on a Limb again, follow on from the earlier post this week where we explored the soybean itself, and using the evidence-base available, explore how cancer and soy beans interact, but first

Thought for the day

The doctor of the future will give no medicine,
But will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame,
In diet and in the cause and prevention of disease

                    Thomas Edison, 1902

1. There are historically low breast cancer incidence rates in Asia, where traditional soyfoods are a staple.

2. Research demonstrates isoflavones in soy may exert anti-oestrogenic effects.

3. Some epidemiologic data shows a higher soy intake results in a lower breast cancer risk.

4. Rodent studies demonstrate soy protects against carcinogen-induced mammary cancer.

In broad terms, there are 2 types of breast cancer; oestrogen positive and oestrogen negative. Our discussion relates to oestrogen positive cancers in particular and these make up about 70% of all breast cancers.

Oestrogen positive cancers are aggravated by oestrogen (the main female sex hormone). How this happens is that on the surface of oestrogen positive cancer cells there are receptors for oestrogen. When an oestrogen molecule comes into proximity with such a receptor, it attaches (but does not go into the cell) and creates a cascade of reactions within the cell that speeds up the cancer’s progression.

In earlier times, removal of the ovaries was attempted as a way to reduce oestrogen levels in women with breast cancer. But oestrogen is made in other parts of the body, so only in exceptional circumstances has this proven useful.

Many people will have heard of tamoxifen. This was heralded as a breakthrough drug as, while it does attach to the oestrogen receptors, it does not cause the internal reaction. Therefore, tamoxifen blocks natural oestrogen from having its adverse affects.

Unfortunately, tamoxifen does aggravate uterine tissue and is associated with increased uterine cancer, but on balance it remains a widely used anti-cancer drug. Simply put, tamoxifen is an oestrogen antagonist.


There are 3 main oestrogen-like chemicals in soybeans; genistein, daidzein, and glycitein.

They are present in their beta glycoside forms: genistin, daidzin, and glycitin, hence you may see them written differently.

Genistin/genistein, daidzin/daidzein, and glycitin/glycitein account for approximately 50–55%, 40–45%, and 5–10% of total isoflavone content, respectively in soybeans.

Older adults in Japan and Shanghai, China, typically consume between 25 and 50 mg/day of isoflavones and probably no more than 5% of these populations consume more than 100 mg/day. In contrast, people in the United States and Europe consume an average of less than 3 mg/day.

Isoflavones have a chemical structure similar to human oestrogen but bind to estrogen receptors more weakly. Significantly, it has been suggested that genistein, which is the best-studied isoflavone, along with the other isoflavones may act like tamoxifen as estrogen receptor blockers.

What has also drawn attention in recent years are conflicting concerns that isoflavones may stimulate the growth of existing estrogen-sensitive breast tumors. These concerns are based on evidence gathered from studies involving tissue cultures and rodents. However, they do contrast with the human epidemiological evidence that shows among Asian women higher soy intake is associated with a nearly one-third reduction in breast cancer risk and that Japanese breast cancer patients, in comparison to Western women, exhibit better survival rates even after controlling for stage of diagnosis.


In Asia, isoflavones are consumed as traditional soy foods and not in pure or processed forms. Epidemiological data associates lifetime, and particularly pre-adolescent consumption of traditional soy with a decreased risk of breast cancer development in humans.

An Asian-American study on soy found that women, pre- and postmenopausal, who consumed tofu, had a 15% reduced risk of breast cancer with each additional serving per week.

Wu AH, Ziegler, et al. Tofu and risk of breast cancer in Asian- Americans. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1996;5(11):901-906.

Another trial reported that women in the highest tertile intake of tofu had a 51% decrease risk of premenopausal breast cancer when compared with women in the lowest tertile. In this study, no statistical significant association was observed between soy intake and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women.

Hirose K, Imaeda N, Tokudome Y, Goto C, Wakai K, Matsuo K, et al. Soybean products and reduction of breast cancer risk: a case-control study in Japan. Br J Cancer 2005;93(1):15-22.

Messina and colleagues published a major review on this subject in 2008 and I consider it to be one of the very the best review articles on this topic. To quote:

The conclusion drawn from this extensive review of the available literature is that currently there is little evidence to suggest that any potential weak estrogenic effects of dietary isoflavones have a clinically relevant impact on breast tissue in healthy women. Limited data suggest this is also the case for breast cancer survivors.

This evidence includes multiple trials showing no effects on breast proliferation or mammographic density and considerable epidemiologic data showing either no effect or a modest protective role of soy/isoflavone intake on breast cancer risk.

Based on this evidence it seems unlikely that isoflavone consumption at dietary levels (i.e. <100 mg/day) elicits adverse breast cancer-promoting effects in healthy women or breast cancer survivors not undergoing active treatment.

Messina MJ and Wood CE; Nutrition Journal 2008.  To read in full, CLICK HERE http://www.nutritionj.com/content/7/1/17

When this article was first posted in 2008, there was no data to support the notion that soyfoods or isoflavone supplements could improve the survival of breast cancer patients.

Several earlier studies suggested that whole soy foods appeared to have no negative or positive effect on breast cancer. For example the following two studies found soy foods had no negative impact on breast cancer survival.

Boyapati SM, et al. Soyfood intake and breast cancer survival: a followup of the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2005;92(1):11-17.

Nishio K, et al. Consumption of soy foods and the risk of breast cancer: findings from the Japan Collaborative Cohort (JACC) Study. Cancer Causes Control. 2007;18(8):801-808.
This, and other evidence, prompted Messina and colleagues in their 2008 review quoted above to state:

Available data on breast cancer recurrence and mortality provide some assurance for breast cancer patients that soyfoods/isoflavone supplements, when taken at dietary levels, do not contribute to recurrence rates although more data are clearly needed to better address this issue.

However, in 2009, following more analysis of the Shanghai study, strong new evidence was published showing significant benefits of consuming soy for women with breast cancer in terms of better survival and less cancer recurrence, making Messina’s claim outdated.

Women consuming soy in the highest quartile had a 29% lower death rate over the 4 year follow up, and 32% reduced risk of recurrence. The protective effect was present regardless of oestrogen receptor status of the cancer, or whether tamoxifen was used or not.

This study provided the most compelling evidence to date of a benefit for soy consumption by women with breast cancer (as opposed to no harm). It is important because it shows a benefit for increased soy consumption irrespective of oestrogen receptor status or tamoxifen use.

Shu XO et al. Soy food intake and breast cancer survival; JAMA. 2009 Dec 9; 302(22):2437-43.

The trend of this study was confirmed in 2013 when another study demonstrated soy food intake is associated with longer survival and low recurrence among breast cancer patients.

Zhang, Y.F., et al., Positive effects of soy isoflavone food on survival of breast cancer patients in China. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 2012. 13(2): p. 479-482.

More recently still, a major review from the World Cancer Research Fund International’s Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Breast Cancer Survivors has examined a total of 85 studies involving 164,416 women. Included has been analysis of specific evidence related to soy and its interaction with breast cancer.

This major study makes modest conclusions The evidence was sparse and generally consistent, and is suggestive of an inverse relationship between consumption of foods containing soy and all cause mortality. 

Translation? From what solid evidence there is so far, it seems that soy is likely to be helpful; the evidence for it being unhelpful is not there. Conclusion? It is coming after a few more pieces of the puzzle are put into place!

It may be that the non-traditional soy foods do create problems. Significantly, soy protein isolates do not contain many of the bioactive components present in whole soy. As we clarified in Part 1, refined products include soy flour and its processed derivatives.

Research has demonstrated that soy protein isolates (85–90% soy protein) do stimulate the growth of

estrogen-dependent tumors. Another study evaluated the relative effects of different degrees of soy processing on the growth of pre-existing tumors and demonstrated that consumption of isoflavones in increasingly purer or more highly enriched forms may have a proportionally worse effect on estrogen-dependent tumor growth.

Allred CD,et al. Soy processing influences growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer tumors. Carcinogenesis 2004;25:1649-1657.

Some research has shown that soy processing increases breast cancer growth in mice. This may be related to isoflavone metabolism and bioavailability, but more research is needed.

Allred CD, et al. Soy processing influences growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer tumors. Carcinogenesis 2004;25:1649-1657.

There has also been some concern expressed that soy products may actually interfere with the action of tamoxifen itself. However, recent studies examining the interaction between soy and tamoxifen have yielded neutral or beneficial findings.

In one study, soy intake had no effect on levels of tamoxifen or its metabolites.

Wu AH, et al. Tamoxifen, soy, and lifestyle factors in Asian American women with breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25(21):3024-3030.

In another, the combination of tamoxifen and genistein inhibited the growth of human breast cancer cells in a synergistic manner in vitro.

Mai Z, et al. Genistein sensitizes inhibitory effect of tamoxifen on the growth of estrogen receptor- positive and HER2-overexpressing human breast cancer cells. Mol Carcinog. 2007;46(7):534-542.

One study reported that soy’s main phyto-oestrogen genistein, enhanced the cytotoxic effect of the chemotherapeutic agent adriamycin at low doses against the human breast cancer cell. This enhancing effect was mainly attributed to the increase of necrotic-like, rather than apoptotic, cell death.

Satoh H, Nishikawa K, Suzuki K, et al. Genistein, a soy isoflavone, enhances necrotic-like cell death in a breast cancer cell treated with a chemotherapeutic agent. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol.2003;113–114:149–158.

Of great interest is research that demonstrates eating soy foods during childhood and adolescence in women, and before puberty onset in animals, appears to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life.

Research evidence indicates a possible synergistic relationship between soy and green tea consumption.

The American Cancer Society in 2006 concluded that breast cancer patients can safely consume up to three servings of traditional soyfoods per day, although the group advised against the use of more concentrated sources of isoflavones such as powders and supplements.

The United States Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) conducted a review of the available studies and found little evidence of substantial health improvements and no adverse effects, but also noted that there was no long-term safety data on estrogenic effects from soy consumption.

The AHRQ report notes that future studies of the health effects of soy need to better address the complex relationship between health and food components, including how variations in the diets, lifestyles, and health of participants might affect the results.

Also, studies that substitute practical amounts of soy products into people's diets would better address the question of whether people should make the effort to include more soy in their diet.

The Cancer Council of New South Wales released a statement saying scientific research suggests that overall the moderate consumption of soy products does not appear to present a risk to women with breast cancer, and there is equivocal evidence that consuming large amounts of soy products may have a protective effect against developing breast and prostate cancer. However, the Council does not recommend taking soy dietary supplements as there is no evidence they are either effective or safe at preventing or treating cancers.

We regularly eat organic tofu and soy yoghurt (which Ruth makes from Bonsoy). Ruth drinks small amounts of soymilk (mostly Bonsoy in teas), but I do not – I do not like it and have teas and dandelion coffee black). We eat some tempeh but only have silken tofu by mistake when eating out!

We avoid processed soy products and read labels to avoid the myriad of foods with these products added to them.

In answer to the key question, I conclude the phyto-oestrogens in soy act like tamoxifen, not like oestrogen. I also conclude:
1. Traditional soy foods are almost certainly safe and warrant being a part of a healthy diet for healthy people. I recommend them. I particularly recommend regular soy consumption for young and adolescent girls; but then lifetime consumption seems ideal.

2. Processed or refined or concentrated soy products run the real risk of being problematic for everyone. I do not recommend them.

3. For women with breast cancer, the best evidence currently available suggests traditional soy foods, eaten in traditional amounts are likely to be safe and may well be helpful in reducing recurrences and extending survival. I recommend them.

Coconut oil – are you nuts?

Food for life – what to eat when

You Can Conquer Cancer – the revised edition has many other explanations like this one on soy. What type of protein and how much? Which are the best fats to eat and to avoid, and so on. This book is about prevention and long-term good health, as well as cancer recovery.

Ruth and I leave this week to present our final meditation retreat for the year, Meditation Under the Long White Cloud at Mana retreat centre amidst the peace and beauty of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.

Then we travel down south to the exquisite landscape at Wanaka to present the 5 day cancer residential program, Mind, Meditation and Healing from November 10 - 14. It will be a delight to be back in New Zealand once more.

20 October 2014

Is soy safe?

Major new research has been published regarding soy. Posting this new evidence on my Facebook page has led to a great discussion and revealed that soy still polarizes people. What is the truth?

Will soy give you breast cancer or protect you? Will soy produce breasts in young boys? Protect girls from ever increasingly early onset of puberty? Does it speed up breast cancer, or make a useful contribution to both preventing and recovering from it? Does it really protect from difficulties during menopause?

It seems some people would have us believe soy is full on toxic. Others point to the low rates of breast cancer and menopausal difficulties in Asian women, link this to their regular soy consumption and suggest soy is something we would all benefit from.

So this is to revisit an earlier post on these matters that was evidence-based. To re-examine the science behind soy and breast cancer so we can bring some logic and clarity to this often steamy debate. Then I will tell you what Ruth and I actually do, and not shirk from drawing 3 compelling conclusions and making recommendations, but first

Thought for the day 
Meditation (reflection) first purifies its own source, ie, the soul, from which it arises.
Then it regulates the inclinations, directs activity, moderates excess, shapes morals, 
Makes life honest and regulated, 
And mediates knowledge of divine as well as human things.

It is this which replaces confusion with order, 
Checks the inclination to lose oneself in uncertainty, 
Gathers together that which is dispersed, 
Penetrates into that which is hidden, 
Discovers that which is true and distinguishes it from that which merely appears as such, 
And brings to light fiction and lie.
                    St Bernard of Clairvaux

Soy products have gained widespread popularity in the West over the last 50 years. But whether they are really safe, and especially what to recommend in regard to breast cancer has been an issue of great contention this last decade. It is an area I have taken a great deal of interest in. I have read widely, spoken to many authorities and fielded many questions.

What follows then is a major piece that is evidence-based and comes in two parts, much of which first appeared on this blog in July and August of 2013, and now seems to warrant a re-run. This is the first blog I have repeated, albeit with some important research updates since one year ago.

The aim is firstly to bring further understanding to the soy bean itself. Particularly when it comes to nutrition, I am of the view that if we can understand the principles, then the details follow fairly simply and we will have the confidence to make good choices.

And then in Part 2, how does soy interact with breast cancer? Does it cause or prevent breast cancer? And what of its role for those who have developed breast cancer – does it help or hinder?

As it seems the answers to these questions may well vary depending upon what type of soy foods we eat, let us begin by understanding the range of options available.

THE SOY BEAN (Glycine max)  

3 Forms – raw, traditional, processed

1. The raw soybean (or soya bean as it is called in the UK) is a legume that originated in East Asia but is now classified as an oilseed rather than a pulse by the FAO. There are 2 main types, those used for eating (which make up about 15% of world production), and those for oil (85%).

Raw soybeans contain trypsin inhibitors that make them toxic to humans and all other monogastric (single stomached) animals.

Happily, cooking with "wet" heat destroys the enzyme and solves this problem, so all edible forms of soy have been, or need to be cooked.

2. The traditional use of soybeans falls into 2 categories:
i) Non-fermented foods including tofu, tofu skin and soy milk.

ii) Fermented foods including soy sauce, miso (fermented soybean paste), and tempeh.

Fermentation does lower the phytoestrogen content found in the raw beans. People have claimed that historically soybeans were only used after fermentation, and we shall investigate whether or not this would seem to be a relevant issue.

3. Processed soy products are a more modern phenomena and usually stem from soy flour (made by roasting and grinding the beans) and its products.

One of the most common is TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein – a similar form of which can be
made from wheat, oats and cotton seeds). TVP is a de-fatted soy flour product that is a by-product of extracting soy oil. It has a protein content equal to that of meat and is often used as a meat substitute or extender.

Fat-free (defatted) soybean meal is a significant and cheap source of protein for animal feeds and many prepackaged meals.

Processed soy may be found in many things from vegetable sausages to Mars bars.

In 1997, about 8% of all soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States were genetically modified. In 2010, the figure was 93%. Unless a soy product stipulates that it is GMO free, or organically grown, it is almost certain to contain at least some genetically modified beans.

Soy oil 
Soy beans have a high oil content; around 20% and soy oil accounts for about 65% of all oil used in commercial and home cooking. However, soy oil is low in Omega 3 fatty acids and high in Omega 6s. The ratio of Omega 3 to 6 in soy oil is only .13 : 1, whereas in flaxseed oil it is 3.45 : 1; so for all the nutritional reasons why flaxseed oil is good for regular use, soy oil is not.

Tofu usually contains under 10% fat, so the oil type is not a major issue when eating it – unless you have very particular needs.

Soy protein
Soy beans are high in protein: around 38 - 45%.

Soybeans are an excellent source of complete protein. A complete protein contains in the one food all the essential amino acids in a good balance necessary for human health. Meat is well known as a complete protein and concerns have been raised (probably in a way that is highly over rated) that vegetarians may miss out on some amino acids.

So, as confirmed by the US Food and Drug Administration, soy is a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Soy protein has the nutritional equivalent of meat, eggs, and casein for human growth and health.

Tofu – how it is made 
Soaked soybeans are ground; water is added and boiled.  The pulp is then removed leaving soymilk. Next, a natural mineral coagulant such as calcium sulphate, magnesium chloride, or a mixture of both is added, leading to the soymilk curdling. The curds are removed, placed in cloth-lined forming boxes and varying amounts of pressure applied to form soft, regular, firm or extra firm tofu.

The firmer the tofu, the higher the protein and fat levels.

Silken tofu is made when either calcium sulphate or glucono-delta-lactone is added to a thick, rich soymilk. The mixture is put into a package that is then heated to activate the coagulation and produce the tofu in the package. 

Typically, tofu contains between 10 and 15% protein and 5 to 9% fat.  It is relatively low in carbohydrates and in fiber (as the pulp was removed), making it easy to digest.

Soy production and the environment

Soybeans produce
1. At least twice as much protein per acre compared to most other major vegetables or grains.

2. Five to 10 times more protein per acre than land set aside for grazing animals to make milk.

3. Up to 15 times more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production.
Environmental groups have reported increased soybean cultivation in Brazil has destroyed huge areas of Amazon rainforest. However, most of the soybeans produced in this area are actually grown for livestock fodder and oil production.

Conclusion?  There is great environmental merit in eating less meat and more soybeans.

The burning question – what impact does soy have on breast cancer? How is breast cancer actually affected by oestrogen? Do the phyto-oestrogens (natural, oestrogen-like substances) in soybeans cause breast cancer, or do they protect from it? Does soy help or hinder in recovering from breast cancer?

Part 2 will be posted Thursday

Eating Well, Being Well

You Can Conquer Cancer – the revised edition has many other explanations like this one on soy. What type of protein and how much? Which are the best fats to eat and to avoid, and so on. This book is about prevention and long-term good health, as well as cancer recovery.

Ruth and I leave this week to present our final meditation retreat for the year, Meditation Under the Long White Cloud at Mana retreat centre amidst the peace and beauty of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.

Then we travel down south to the exquisite landscape at Wanaka to present the 5 day cancer residential program, Mind, Meditation and Healing from November 10 - 14. It will be a delight to be back in New Zealand once more.

13 October 2014

What are you part of ???

A couple of big milestones. This blog has been running for just on 4 years and has had over half a million pageviews. Ever wonder who else is reading it? This week, interesting details and feedback, one great personal story and then news of the upcoming retreats in New Zealand, Meditation Under the Long White Cloud and Mind, Meditation and Healing, but first

Thought for the day

Helping, fixing, and serving 
Represent three different ways of seeing life. 

When you help, you see life as weak. 
When you fix, you see life as broken. 

When you serve, you see life as whole. 

Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, 
And service the work of the soul. 

Rachel Naomi Remen

The older I become, the more service seems to be what gives life meaning. How fortunate am I then to be able to work in a field of service.

It has often seemed to me that some people have really tough jobs where it is almost as if they need to compromise their ethics and life values at the door on their way in to work; and pick up what is left on the way out.

My work has always demanded the best of me. It is a blessing.

So writing the blog is a regular delight – even when the need to write the one for next Monday comes late on Sunday night. Also, it is a discipline – a writing discipline that has me writing regularly and exercising one of the arts I am passionate about – writing!

Anyway, much gratitude to all of you who made the time and effort to reply to the recent survey. Hundreds of people provided feedback and the general comments were very gratifying. It seems worth persisting to pen something regularly :)

It also seems that of those who responded, over 70% have been reading the blog for more than 6 mths, over half read it weekly, over half would like to receive it weekly in future, but 40% would be happy with fortnightly – so when I am on a personal retreat I may spread it out a little!

Guest bloggers are welcome equally monthly and occasionally, 20% of you share posts regularly, but over 50% have only shared once or twice.

All the current topics on the blog record a good level of interest, with meditation, nutrition, healing and mind training scoring highest. As for age – the older we get the more people who are reading – the 50+ group being the largest, while most have good health and a significant number face major health challenges. Well over half are in full or part time work and about a third are retired – quite a diverse bunch really, but all interested in their own health and wellbeing, and what they can do for others.

The range of suggestions for new blogs was very interesting and great food for thought. Finding peace amidst diversity, simplifying life, why some recover, others not, dealing with legal addictions, mind training, remission as a limiting word, how do you know when your meditation is “working” … and on …

A few of the nice comments
I love the quotes. Sometimes it's great when you are busy to glance at something that can help keep you anchored, it can be like a herb that adds a lot to the soup.

Your Monday blog is always very welcome - solid ground to start the week off and it re-connects me with the world within.

I really appreciate the fact that you take the time to write a weekly blog which is interesting and informative. You bring things to the fore which I otherwise might not notice and you are not afraid to address tricky issues. I also enjoy reading people's comments. There is a community of people who support these ideas and it's good to be able to share that.

It is always a pleasure to open up your blog and have a quick look at the topics. Then I can decide do I have time now to read it all or allow time in the near future to study the information in more detail.

Always of interest and pertinent but the best thing is - it is my reminder.
I am a 6 year cancer survivor with still a primary brain. Your weekly blog is a great source of inspiration and informative material.

They have often prompted me to research a topic in greater depth and this can lead to knowledge which may be helpful to others - as well as to me.

I never feel isolated when I read your blog and see so many of the worthwhile events you hold.

It has taken cancer to teach me to live the life I have always wanted to live. xx

I don't get on my computer very often so I save them for reading later if can't at time. I find them very grounding and refreshes my priority needs in amongst the pressure and bustle of todays life.

Feels like an old friend coming to visit - really nice.

And finally, one very inspiring story from my old profession
Your work Ian remains of immense significance. I have had the very good fortune to attend 4 of the old Inward Bound retreats years ago, and to be taught meditation by you. This came after a nervous breakdown at age 38, while running a vet practice. 

My life has progressively become rather more delightful since then. I remain in fulltime vet practice at age 62, and thanks in part to the broad range of topics which you present, I am able to retain a very wide range of interests, including that of brain plasticity. I am starting to do some mentoring of final year Sydney Vet students, and we take 10-12 students for a month each in the practice. 

I bought Craig Hassed's new book "Mindful Learning" yesterday. One of the benefits of your blog is that it draws my attention to a topic, and I can say to my children .. "I read something interesting the other day ...".

Hell, this has taken longer than doing the survey!

Seriously though, I hope that you retain the energy to keep up your output for a long time yet. Stay well yourself!! 

Very sincerely,

John Dooley BVSc, Wingham NSW


1. Meditation Under the Long White Cloud  -  SOON  -  October 25 - 31
Last meditation retreat Ruth and I will present in 2014 - the first in 2015 is Meditation in the Forest in the Yarra Valley Pre-Easter.

This one is on the glorious Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand and the special focus will be on deepening the experience of meditation and guided imagery.

VENUE: Mana Retreat Centre

BOOKINGS and ENQUIRIES:  Tel +64 7 866 8972

Register with Mana Retreat at the online secure manaretreat.com/users/register.php

Five days for people affected by cancer led by Drs Ian and Ruth Gawler and where the focus will be on accelerated healing

DATES: Arrive 12noon, program commences with lunch together at 1pm Monday 10th Nov.; until 2pm Friday 14th (after lunch) Nov. 2014

VENUE: The Snow Farm Lodge, Cardrona Valley Rd, Wanaka.

BOOKINGS and ENQUIRIEScanlive.org or call Stew Burt 03 443 4168 OR +64 3 443 6234 New Zealand