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Dedication to Reporter Wendy Mesley
Well known TV personality and health nut; Wendy Mesley is a very familiar and charming face on Canadian TV and we all felt her grief when she contracted Cancer in 2004. Whether it was imagined or not we thought we could see the consternation in her face as she tried to continue on with her life normally and like a good reporter, tell us what had happened to her and just how it came to be. Many years ago this would be unheard of. A health conscious person like Wendy who eats right and exercises regularly would not get cancer, heart disease, stroke or anything else related to poor lifestyle but would die of old age like she was designed to do.
As viewers we began to see Wendy’s smiling cool exterior come apart as she discovered what we all knew to begin with; that the corruption of modern day society is slowly killing us all while commercial interests increase their profits from our very demise. The luxury of wrinkle creams actually causing skin cancer and the convenience of fast food giving us colon cancer and in wendy’s case; the food that she thought was safe was not properly labeled or the air she was breathing contained heavy metals and other carcinogens.
She continued on and discovered ’Cancer gate’, a subject or viewpoint that she would not have previously considered anything other than ’radical’. The laugher in the voices of the drug company reps that will themselves get cancer but are enjoying fantastic profits in a business that is expanding at such a rate that we will all be part of their scheme eventually, even their own families, echoed in her ears as she retired after such interviews. Her disgust was palpable but still she continued on and managed to regain her composure over time and for that she is lauded here. We do feel your pain, Wendy and we share it too and hope that someday we can correct this problem and many others that plague the world of today. (Namron Soar)
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After fighting the disease herself, Marketplace’s Wendy Mesley is asking questions about our rising cancer rates. She’s getting some disturbing answers. Here, Wendy is pictured having a sample of her blood for analysis.
CBC MARKETPLACE: HEALTH, CANCER Chasing the cancer answer Broadcast: March 5, 2006
In the next generation, the Canadian Cancer Society says almost one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer. One in two.
WHAT CAUSES CANCER?
Cancer occurs when cells are triggered to grow abnormally. Triggers include genetics, radiation, and carcinogens.
It might be your husband, your daughter, your brother, your neighbour.
It might be you.
After Marketplace host Wendy Mesley was diagnosed, she began a long and personal journey. Along the way, she came across disturbing clues about why more Canadians than ever are getting sick.
When prevention isn’t enough
Mesley says she thought she was doing everything right. The Canadian Cancer Society touts its seven steps to health:
ON THE RISE
1 in 2.3 men and 1 in 2.6 women will have cancer in their lifetime.
Don’t smoke Eat your veggies Exercise Stay out of the sun Get screened regularly Visit your doctor and dentist regularly Avoid cancer-causing substances
Those are all great tips for healthy living - but like so many other Canadians with cancer, Mesley did all of them and still got the disease. Clearly, there must be something else going on.
The real cancer story is the fact that nearly one in two of us are going to get this disease.
DOES DIET MATTER?
A low-fat diet used to be touted as a cancer-fighter. Recent studies cast that into doubt.
The research found that women who switched to a low-fat diet later in life did not see a reduced risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer or heart disease.
For eight years, researchers in the U.S. conducted three separate studies of 48,835 women with an average age of 62 who were randomly chosen to adopt either a low-fat diet or keep eating as normal.
Simply cutting the total fat in the diet generally didn’t help reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease among these women, according to the studies, which were published in the Feb. 8, 2006, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Changing diet after age 50 may not work as well as eating healthy foods earlier in life, said Mara Vitolins, a dietician who co-authored one of the papers.
But researchers say older women shouldn’t give up trying to eat healthy. They say the focus should be on reducing saturated fats and trans fats found in processed foods, meat and some dairy products.
Participants in the study filled out food questionnaires but the research did not account for types of fat, and the women may not have reduced their intake by enough to see a difference, the researchers added.
Cancer can also take years to develop. While women in the low-fat group did not show a reduction in cancer incidence overall, there was a small decrease in polyps that are precursor to colon cancer.
Meanwhile, the cancer-fighting benefits of a high-fibre diet have also been called into question. A review published in December 2005 found that eating a diet high in fibre does not reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
The idea that fibre may protect against colon cancer is based on the notion that the foods help keep us regular. By bulking up stool, it was thought that insoluble fibre like wheat bran helps waste move through faster, diluting carcinogens in the bowel.
But proof that dietary fibre from fruits and vegetables, cereals or bran reduces the risk of colon cancer has been elusive, with animal studies, population studies and randomized clinical trials showing inconsistent results.
The latest study, published in the Dec. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed data from 13 international trials involving more than 725,000 men and women who were followed for six to 20 years. During the follow-up, 8,081 colorectal cancer cases were identified.
Researchers concluded that a diet high in fibre did not reduce the risk of colon cancer, after adjusting for age and other factors such as family history, smoking and red meat intake.
So what accounts for our climbing cancer rates?
Some explain rising cancer rates as a natural outcome of our aging population; rates have increased in some elderly-onset forms of cancer. But the rates are increasing at remarkable rates among other age groups too. For instance, childhood cancers have risen over 20 per cent in 30 years.
The Canadian Cancer Society spends about 10 per cent of its budget on prevention (largely on healthy diet and anti-smoking campaigns).
Meanwhile, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, thyroid and testicular cancers are all increasing. All have links to environmental contaminants.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," says the old adage. But with so much focus on treatment, drugs and finding the ever-elusive cancer cure, prevention isn’t a popular word in the cancer community.
"I can accept that I have cancer; I can’t accept how common it is," says Mesley. "If it was just me, I could live with that. But the number of people getting cancer is wrong. Our failure to do better fighting this disease is wrong. I just think we need to be a little wiser about the world we are creating."
CBC MARKETPLACE: HEALTH, CANCER
The cancer blame game: How blaming the patient is easier than prevention Broadcast: March 5, 2006
Dr. Sam Epstein, author of Cancer-Gate: How to Win the Losing Cancer War. Dr. Sam Epstein is a cancer expert. In the late 1970s he rocked the cancer establishment with a book, The Politics of Cancer, which argued that the federal government had been corrupted by industrial polluters.
He’s followed that up with another zinger: Cancer-Gate: How to Win the Losing Cancer War.
In it, Epstein argues that we’re losing a winnable war against the disease, largely because well-meaning institutions have misspent billions targeting treatment, while virtually ignoring strategies for preventing cancer in the first place.
public if you get cancer, it’s your own fault." In fact, Epstein contends "it is the fault of the Canadian cancer establishment, who have not informed the public of this vast range, body of information on avoidable causes of cancer."
Barbara Whylie, head of the Canadian Cancer Society, agrees more should be done: "We as a community --not just the Canadian Cancer Society-- we as a community in the past have done less on prevention than we probably should have. That’s changing.
THE NEW CANCER STRATEGY
The Canadian Cancer Society supports a plan for a national cancer strategy. This will include further prevention work if the federal government decides to fund the strategy.
"We need to do more in the prevention area and are committed to doing it.. It’s one of the areas that we are promoting very aggressively through the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control."
In the meantime, other than quitting smoking, Canadians know very little about avoidable environmental causes of cancer. That ignorance, says Epstein, has provided fertile ground for the creation of a cancer epidemic.
For example, Epstein points to the birth control pill, or, as he describes it: "the largest unregulated human trial that’s ever been conducted."
In 2005, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer re-classified certain oral contraceptives as carcinogenic to humans with slightly increased risks for cervical, liver and breast cancer. While the overall benefits of oral contraceptives may be beneficial, it concluded, more study is needed. (The Canadian Cancer Society is reviewing its position on oral contraceptives. The society plans to make a decision this spring.)
Meanwhile, the European Union has banned the import of Canadian beef injected with growth hormones. At least one of the hormones is carcinogenic. Canada argues there is no scientific basis for the ban, and the Canadian Animal Health Institute argues [PDF] that hormones are "a safe, effective production tool for the Canadian beef industry."
In November 2006, new labelling regulations will require manufacturers to list ingredients on personal care products Canada.
And as of January 1, 2005, under the European Union 7th Amendment Cosmetic Directive, cosmetics companies selling products in the EU were ordered to refrain from using certain suspected cancer-connected ingredients, used in some fragrances, hair sprays and nail polishes. In Canada, those chemicals are still found at the cosmetics counter, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it. Under Canada’s Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, many chemicals are not currently required to be identified on product labels.
Epstein argues that consumers have the basic right to know, through explicit labelling, about known carcinogens in food, cosmetics, personal care and household products. Patients, he adds, should also be better informed of the carcinogenic risks of prescription drugs and screening and diagnostic medical procedures.
According to Epstein, resistance to labelling and better information campaigns comes down to one issue: money. "The more money you spend on cancer, the more cancer you get," says Epstein.
"That’s the reason why there’s been virtually no movement in the field of prevention.. The more drugs are bought, the higher the profit. The more disease there is, the greater the profit."
"Cancer is a massive industry," says Diana Ward, a cancer information advocate in London with the UK Working Group on the Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer. "We’re being taught to think about cancer as you do about diabetes, as you do about asthma, and prepare for a time when if you have it, you will just be on a lifelong drug regime."