Monday, July 7, 2008

Cancer in Other Non-Industrialized Cultures

In Cancer, Disease of Civilization (1960), Wilhjalmur Stefansson mentions a few cultures besides the Inuit in which large-scale searches never turned up cancer. Dr. Albert Schweitzer examined over 10,000 traditionally-living natives in Gabon (West Africa) in 1913 and did not find cancer. Later, it became common in the same population as they began "living more and more after the manner of the whites."

In Cancer, its Nature, Cause and Cure (1957), Dr. Alexander Berglas describes the search for cancer among natives in Brazil and Ecuador by Dr. Eugene Payne. He examined approximately 60,000 people over 25 years and found no evidence of cancer.

Sir Robert McCarrison conducted a seven year medical survey among the Hunza, in what is now Northern Pakistan. Among 11,000 people, he did not find a single case of cancer. Their diet consisted of soaked and sprouted grains and beans, fruit, vegetables, grass-fed dairy and a small amount of meat (including organs of course).


Steph said...

Do you offer a solution to this problem in your archives? I don't want to waste hours of time digging for an answer that isn't there. However, if there is an answer in there, I'm happy to find it on my own.

At any rate, I do not recall how I found your blog in the first place, but I've been reading for a while now. I've found it thoroughly enjoyable to read which is surprising given that it's primarily designed to educate. (Yes, I admit it. I don't see educational and entertaining as concepts that go together usually. I'm a heathen. :D)

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Steph,

The 'solution' is basically to do what cultures were doing that didn't get cancer. Here's the short version: don't eat processed grains (especially wheat), don't eat sugar, don't eat any kind of processed vegetable oil, get plenty of sunshine and eat good-quality meat and fish, organs (liver), and butter if you choose. I don't know exactly which part of this diet protects against cancer, maybe all of it.

Carbs are fine, as long as they come from root vegetables, veggies and fruit.

On a cultural level, this type of eating is associated with low cancer rates, but of course I can't guarantee it will have the same effect on an individual level, especially in a person who has already lived part of their life eating a mainstream diet. But I still believe you can stack the deck in you favor.

Steph said...

Sure - I understand there are no guarantees, but the things you've posted are compelling enough for me to want to give this a go.

At any rate, I appreciate you responding so quickly.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the information on cancer, Stephan. Wow...No cancer. Well, at least for awhile, but it's still impressive.

We recently wrote an article on cancer at Brain Blogger. Could it be possible to cure cancer of any type, at any stage? According to recent studies by research centers all across America, it might be

We would like to read your comments on our article. Thank you.


Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Kelly,

Thanks, I'll check it out.

JBG said...

Hi Stephan

Another possible reason why we modern people get so much cancer is that we have such advanced medical science.

Weird idea, but maybe true. If I had your email, I would send a couple things to make an initial assessment of the idea easier.

I don't (I looked around but couldn't find it), so here's the bare URL:

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi John,

stejagguy at hotmail period com. I took a look at that link. At first glance, I'm skeptical. Cancer existed before X-rays, and the people who were diagnosing it in Stefansson's time saw it regularly in modernized people living right next to traditional ones, neither of which got X-rays.

Cancer definitely increases with the level of "civilization". That has been observed for hundreds of years. It would explain the association with physician density.

JBG said...

Hi Stephan

Preparing to send a copy of your original post to, I did Google site searches there on the names of the three authors you mention. I found none of them, but thought to do one on Weston Price. One hit came up, to a review Moss wrote in 1997 on a book by someone named Vonderplanitz. Both the guy and the book are weird according to Moss, who was nevertheless intrigued by its recommendations of raw foods including, in particular, raw animal foods, as a cure for cancer and a general route to health. The book purportedly discusses many instances of cures.

Here is the link to Moss:

Vonderplanitz's book is available through Amazon in a 2005 edition. If the book is on the up and up, it would appear to be a demonstration within the modern context of the phenomenon discussed in your post.

Lynnlake said...

In follow up to your response to Steph, do you recommend any vitamin supplementation, and if so, what? I take CLO (and extra D3 drops in winter) daily. I live in a northern climate on the wrong side of a lake, so sun is not plentiful for a good part of the year. Is liver the only beneficial organ to consume or are there others?