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The Environmental Causes Of
The technologies of our Brave New World often create serious disharmonies within the natural rhythms of the human body.
If there is a single truth about cancer, it is that cancer has multiple interacting causes. Many interdependent factors contribute to the development of cancer.
The concept that cancer is the result of multiple factors impinging on an individual's mind, body and organic systems is not new. It is, however, a concept that has been consistently ignored by most oncologists. In 1958 Dr Max Gerson, an alternative cancer treatment pioneer, explained in general terms how cancer develops.
First, there is a slow build-up of toxicity throughout the body, especially in the liver which is responsible for most of the body's detoxification, leading to a functional alteration of most systems including the chemical balance between sodium and potassium in the cells. Next comes a lowering of electrical potentials in the vital organs, a further accumulation of poisons, a reduction in the activity and supplies of oxygen, and the preliminary mutation of some normal cells into cancer cells. With this the cancer starts, general poisoning increases, vital functions and energies decrease and cancer increases. Thereafter there is a further destruction of the metabolism and liver functioning as the cancer takes over and spreads.
Today we talk more in terms of immune system dysfunction, but Dr Gerson's basic insight of a progressive, systemic poisoning and weakening is still valid. It is even more valid today than in the 1950s as we are routinely submitted to far more toxins in our environment today and have become increasingly aware of their harmful effects, particularly with regard to the cancer process.
Everyone is constantly exposed to substances and energies from chemicals to X-rays that can potentially start a cancer process. The healthy body can normally handle individual carcinogenic influences, but when they become multiple and cumulative, the body begins to weaken and this is the point at which harmful influences may gain the upper hand. Any factor that increases the growth rate of these small cancers gives them an advantage over the immune system.
What makes the immune system weaken is a multiplicity of stress factors, collectively known as carcinogens. The term carcinogen is an umbrella term to denote a substance or energy that begins or promotes the cancer process. Carcinogens include chemicals, electromagnetic energy, faulty diet, free radicals, genetic predisposition, toxicity, radiation, parasites, strong emotions and viruses among others. These are not so much causes of cancer as facilitators; they edge the body into a condition of weakness, vulnerability and immune dysfunction.
Depending on a person's biochemical and psychological makeup, certain stressors will play a greater role. The key concept is that the cumulative effect of many carcinogens and immune-suppressing agents all acting together leads to a weakening of the immune system, thereby allowing cancer cells to proliferate. Carcinogens fall into two categories. Firstly there are initiators or triggers which damage genes that normally control the proliferation of cells. Secondly there are cancer promoters. These do not damage the genes but support the growth of tumour cells or their precursors.
Environmental factors that contribute to cancer
Solar radiation or sunlight, particularly ultraviolet-B and ultraviolet-C radiation, is a common carcinogen. Today even more ultraviolet radiation is present in sunlight because the ozone hole in the earth's upper atmosphere has expanded, weakening the earth's natural shield. Scientists believe that the ultraviolet component of sunlight can induce a permanent mutation at a specific point in the DNA of skin cells, especially of people with very fair (whitish) skin, such as the Caucasians of Australia and southern Africa who, constantly exposed to intense sunlight, have the highest rate of all types of skin cancer in the world. Generally the damaging effects of too much sunlight on fair skin, which produces a temporary but intense immunosuppression, can occur years before an actual tumour appears, often in middle age.
Chronic electromagnetic field exposure
There is growing evidence of a link between exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), which are generated by electrical currents, and cancer. An EMF can be likened to an invisible energy web (shaped somewhat like the contour lines on a topographical map) that is produced by electricity, which in turn creates a magnetic field. While EMFs are part of nature and in fact are radiated by the human body and its individual organs, the quality and intensity (called respectively frequency and gauss field strength) of the energy in forming this contoured web can either support or destroy health. As a general rule, EMFs generated by human-made technological devices or installations tend to be much more harmful than naturally occurring EMFs.
We are surrounded by stress-producing EMFs generated by the electrical wiring in homes and offices, televisions, computers and video terminals, microwave ovens, overhead lights, electrical poles and hundreds of motors that can generate higher than naturally occurring gauss strengths. EMFs interact with living systems in a variety of ways which can exert a major influence on tumour growth.
The frequency at which an EMF is pulsed determines whether or not it is harmful, e.g. the voltage of the electric current used in homes in South Africa is 50 Hz (hertz - cycles per second). In contrast, the ideal frequencies of the human brain during waking hours range from 8 to 20 Hz, while in sleep the frequencies drop to as low as 2 Hz. The higher frequencies of EMFs generated by artificial electrical currents may disturb the brain's natural resonant frequencies.
The EMF exposure from hair dryers, heaters, electric shavers and many other domestic and workplace appliances can be injurious to health over time, especially if usage requires proximity. Although the EMFs drop off at a distance of 5 m, people often stand or sit closer than this to the source of EMFs - typically 45 cm from computers, 1- 3 m from televisions and almost no distance from cellular phones.
Dr George Carlo recently published a book collating research showing that the developing skull of a child may be penetrated deeply by the energy emitted by a cell phone, and that the blood-brain barrier can be compromised by cellphone radiation. He describes how radio frequency radiation creates micro-nuclei in human blood cells - a type of genetic damage known to be a diagnostic marker for cancer.
Studies of human populations have consistently found associations between domestic EMF exposure and cancer, particularly in the case of childhood leukaemia. Among adults, there is a stronger association between EMF exposure and brain cancer, and to a lesser extent, breast cancer. At the same time, not being exposed to naturally occurring EMFs can have a negative impact on health, for they function as a kind of energy nutrient. In Japan it was observed that the amount of time people now spend in buildings and cars (tightly enclosed spaces) reduces their exposure to the geomagnetic field of the earth and may interfere with their health.
Energies from the earth itself can have a carcinogenic effect on humans. Magnetic radiations from the earth, presumably connected with geological fractures and subterranean water veins, can, when situated underneath homes, have remarkably deleterious effects on the occupants.
The concept of geopathic, or pathogenic influences from the earth, was discovered in Germany in 1929 when Baron von Pohl made a systematic tour of the community of Vilsbiburg. He located all the major subterranean water veins (lying at a depth of 44 - 50 m with a width of 3 - 4 m) under Vilsbiburg, then mapped their courses onto the city street plan. He cross-checked this with the residences of the 54 recent cancer fatalities and arrived at a startling conclusion. The check of the completed map confirmed that the beds of all 54 cancer death patients were where he had drawn the radiation currents.
In 1971, the theory of geopathic stress was supported by research showing that water flowing underground, especially subterranean streams that cross, produces measurable increases in magnetic anomalies. These conditions also increase electrical conductivity in the air and soil and other physical changes. While the changes may be small, though measurable (in the vicinity of 25 cm2), they are still capable of contributing to serious illness, including cancer. One large-scale study by the US government reported that geopathic stress may be a factor in 40 - 50% of all human cancers attributed to environmental radiation.
Ionising radiation consists of high-energy rays that are capable of ripping electrons from matter, causing genetic mutations that can lead to cancer. This is the type of radiation used in X-ray technology, which may explain why radiologists have historically had higher incidences of cancer than the rest of the population, as have other workers exposed to low-dose radiation.
X-rays (or gamma rays) also emanate from fluorescent lights, computer monitors and television screens, increasing exposure in the lives of most people.
John W Gofman, (MD, PhD), author of Preventing Breast Cancer estimates that about three-quarters of the current annual incidence of breast cancer in the USA is being caused by ionising radiation, primarily from medical sources. He also states that for some reason, not yet understood, female breasts are 2 - 3 times as susceptible to cancer from radiation as are other human tissues and organs.
Unknown to us, parasites may be weakening our immune system from the inside. The human body may have unwelcome residents that are harmful to health, literally eating us from the inside, using our nutrients and often plugging up our lymphatic vessels. The possible presence of parasites in the body, mostly in the intestines, is a little appreciated but major health problem.
Undiagnosed parasitic infections (from microscopic protozoa to various species of worms) may account for a great number of otherwise unexplained diseases currently besetting us. Parasites tend to reside in the intestines, but they can also migrate to the blood, lymph, heart, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, spleen, eyes and brain. While in place they can produce numerous symptoms: constipation, diarrhoea, gas, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, joint and muscle aches, allergies, anaemia, skin problems, sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue and gradual immune dysfunction.
Hulda Regehr Clark (PhD, ND) postulates that a single parasite - the fluke, a flatworm called fasciolopsis buskii - may be responsible for cancer. Under completely healthy conditions, the body, thanks to the liver, is able to trap and destroy flukes before they have grown large or completed their growth cycle. She contends that once the fluke eggs are hatched and grown to maturity the pressure of the fluke population causes the release of a special cell growth factor called ortho-phosphotyrosine, which marks the beginning of the cancer process.
According to some researchers, up to 15% of the world's cancer deaths are attributable to the activities of viruses, bacteria or parasites. Among the cancer-producing viruses that work through a host's DNA-synthesising and protein-building mechanisms are human papilloma viruses type 16 and 18 (which are sexually transmitted) associated with cervical cancer, and hepatitis B virus associated with liver cancers. Worldwide, viral infections, especially hepatitis, may cause up to 80% of liver cancers. The papilloma viruses 16 and 18 are believed to be responsible for between 70% and 80% of genital and anal cancers, although up to 30 additional papilloma viruses also may be involved.
Cellular oxygen deficiency
One of the most provocative theories of cancer causation was originally put forth by two-time Nobel laureate, Dr Otto Warburg: 'From the standpoint of the physics and chemistry of life, the difference between normal and cancer cells is so great that one can scarcely picture a greater difference'. He also wrote: 'The single, ultimate root cause of cancer and the source of all its aberrations is life without oxygen, or anaerobiosis. All normal cells have an absolute requirement for oxygen, but cancer cells can live without oxygen - a rule without any exceptions'. Dr Warburg showed that when you take normal cells from an embryo and force them to grow without oxygen in a petri dish, they assume the characteristics of cancer cells; they are in effect, transformed from normal to cancerous cells by the elimination of their prime nutrient, oxygen. This meant normal cells would be converted to cancerous cells by changing only one variable.
One possible reason for the dramatic increase in cancer rates over the past century, according to Dr Warburg's theory, may be the decreasing level of oxygen and the increasing level of carbon monoxide in urban air. In contrast, according to this same oxygen deficiency theory, cancer cells cannot exist in an oxygen-rich environment. Humans can become oxygen deficient through several routes, including long-term exposure to air pollution (tobacco smoke, auto exhaust, factory emissions), devitalised foods (overcooked, processed and preserved foods, all of which deplete oxygen), shallow breathing and inadequate exercise.
Pesticide and herbicide residues
There are about 630 different 'active ingredients' in pesticides worldwide. In real-world use, these main ingredients are combined with other chemicals (called 'inert ingredients') to make several thousand toxic formulations, but the basic ingredients number about 630. The purpose of a pesticide is to kill living things by poisoning them, so it is no surprise that these 630 chemicals are all toxic, e.g. the most commonly used insecticide, called 'chlorpyrifos', attacks the central nervous system so effectively that one-fifth of an ounce is sufficient to kill an adult human.
The scale of the pesticide residue problem is staggering. Since 1945, pesticide use has increased tenfold and at the same time, crop loss from insects has increased twofold, from about 7% to 13%. Over 400 pesticides are currently licensed for use on America's foods, and in the past 50 years some 15 000 chemical compounds and more than 35 000 different formulations have come into use as pesticides. Many of those that are banned in the USA (including DDT) are sold to Third-World countries where they enter food products that are then imported into the USA, such as coffee, fruits and vegetables.
Although for the most part these chemicals have been banned or strictly regulated, they are durable and remain in the environment for a long time. Crops grown in soil contaminated with these chemicals will pass on their residue to the animals that are fed them, where they will accumulate in the fatty tissue.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified at least 55 pesticides that could leave carcinogenic residues in foods. In a single meal - from salad to wine, main dish to dessert - a person can conceivably consume residues of a dozen different neurotoxic or carcinogenic chemicals. Many cancer-causing pesticides and industrial
chemicals found in the environment and in our foods tend to accumulate in fatty tissues, whether in fish, cattle, fowl or humans. If people inadvertently choose foods with the highest concentrations of these chemicals, they will build up even higher concentrations of these same chemicals in their body's fatty tissues. This process is called bioaccumulation.
When calculating permitted residue levels of a given compound on a single crop, the EPA does not take into account the individual's repeated exposure to the same pesticide. EPA scientists have found that at times these residues totalled, can in excess of 500% of the daily intake. Many chemicals in foods have not been adequately tested for human safety; even fewer have been tested with the idea of 'chemical cocktail syndrome' or multiple chemical exposure in mind.
A consortium of 75 EPA experts ranked pesticide residues among the top three environmentally derived cancer risks. In the 10 years after Israel banned many toxic chemicals such as DDT and PCB the rate of breast cancer deaths declined sharply, with a 30% reduction in mortality for women under 44 years of age.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation produced an alarming report showing that the amount of pesticide waste endangering people and the environment is five times greater than was estimated two years ago. The FAO believes that some 500 000 tons of pesticides that have expired or been banned are accumulating in fields, farms and villages around the globe. Some of the chemicals were put into storage because they were outlawed for use and are now leaking into the soil and water supply (Time May 21, 2001: 14).
The word 'dioxin' stands for a group of chemicals that occurs rarely, if ever, in nature. A very large proportion of dioxin comes from human sources. During the 1930s and 1940s a vast array of 'chlorinated hydrocarbons' were produced by attaching chlorine atoms on to the petrol hydrocarbons. These new chemicals in turn gave rise to many of today's pesticides, solvents, plastics, etc.
Unfortunately when these chlorinated hydrocarbons are processed in a chemical plant, or are burned in an incinerator, they produce an unwanted by-product, 'dioxin' - the most toxic family of chemicals ever studied. Dioxin was declared a class 1 carcinogen by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) and put on the banned list in February 1992. Dioxin is released by paper mills, by metal smelters, many chemical plants, many pesticide factories and all incinerators. The biggest source of dioxin discharge into the environment is factories that make the popular plastic PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
What can we do when we're surrounded by environmental hazards in this modern age? The answer is to live carefully and mindfully, including a combination of meditation-relaxation, correct diet, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, treat any parasitic infestations; avoid unnecessary toxins, EMF exposure and anything that can compromise the immune system.