Jane Plant is Professor of Geochemistry at Imperial College in London. For 5 years she was the Chief Scientist for the British Geological Survey. In 1987 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which recurred 5 times and by 1993 had spread to her lymph system. She was not prepared to accept the advice of the conventional medical profession about the treatment and prognosis of her condition without question. Instead she applied her scientific training and expertise to try to identify the actual causes of the disease. As a result she devised simple changes to her diet and lifestyle which produced a complete cure. Her book describes how the story unfolds and contains details which may be used to cure or prevent cancers of the breast and prostate (1).
In this blog I will highlight some of the key points.
As a result of her initial investigations, Jane was astonished to learn how much had been discovered about breast and prostate cancer which was not generally available to the public. In reality there is knowledge of many ‘controllable’ risk factors which could be used to provide advice on how to make simple lifestyle changes that would help to prevent or treat these cancers. In the UK, the risk of developing breast cancer has been increasing progressively for years and would affect about 1 in 12 women at the time the book was written. By contrast, the risks were 50% or more lower in the Far East.
After the breast cancer was diagnosed, Jane agreed to have a mastectomy. While she was visiting the hospital, she repeatedly asked the medical staff what actually caused the cancer so that she could take steps to prevent a recurrence. As she had been advised that excess oestrogen was one of the causes she requested a diet which would reduce her oestrogen levels. Since doctors and nurses had difficulty in answering these questions she was referred to a dietitian, who did not keep a promise to investigate further and failed to respond to telephone calls.
Subsequently Jane made changes to her diet based her work on diets which were considered to be anti-cancer. Despite this about 5 years later, she became aware of a large hard lump under her left arm. This was removed by surgery, followed by a similar procedure to remove another one 2 weeks later. Although there were no signs that the cancer had spread, she agreed to a course of radiotherapy but this did not prevent the development of a small hard lump in a lymph node. After surgical removal, Tamoxifen was recommended, which Jane declined because she was aware it increased the risk of other types of cancer and had known several women on the drug who had died. Unfortunately the cancer re-emerged and this time it was decided that chemotherapy would be the treatment. The procedure involves tests on blood and urine so that the dose can be determined. On one occasion the doctor writing the prescription made a mistake and doubled the previous dose. This was noticed by Jane and a correction was made. However if this had not been detected, she may well have died of liver or kidney failure. The chemotherapy continued and Jane measured the size of the lump regularly, which did not show any decrease.
At this point, Jane decided to approach the problem using all her scientific training and expertise. A study of the different rates of cancer demonstrated the huge differences in the incidence of breast and prostate cancer throughout the world. In particular, the rates for breast cancer in rural China were only about 1/7 the rate of the UK. The difference for prostate cancer is even greater. Even in the industrialised areas of China and Japan the rates are still very much lower. Jane and her husband looked in detail at the information from the China-Cornell-Oxford project based on surveys conducted by a team led by Colin Campbell of Cornell University in the USA. They considered that the differences in cancer rates could be due to the high consumption of soya in the typical Chinese diet but doubted if this was the critical factor. However they then had the bright idea that perhaps milk and milk products would provide the answer to the puzzle. Working on the basis that the part of the body which is diseased is the key to the cause, they concluded that consuming a powerful biochemical from the mammary gland of one species might be sending the wrong signals to the mammary gland of another species, namely the human breast.
Prior to the initial diagnosis of breast cancer, Jane had consumed lots of dairy produce, including skimmed milk as well as low-fat cheeses and yoghurt. Although Jane had made adjustments to her diet, this contained milk, yoghurt and ghee (clarified butter). At this point Jane decided to cease eating all dairy produce immediately, including all other products which use milk or milk products as an ingredient, such as soups, biscuits, cakes.
Although the chemotherapy had not been effective up to that point, within days of commencing the new dietary regime the lump started to shrink. One week after she had eliminated dairy produce from her diet the lump began to soften and reduce in size. Jane continued to monitor the lump and remarkably found a straight line graph between size and time, which indicated that it would disappear completely. Sure enough, after 6 weeks she could find no sign of it. A couple of days later this was confirmed by her cancer specialist. Although the chemotherapy continued at the same time as the altered diet, none of the specialists had ever observed this effect from this type of treatment over a period of 20 years, so the effect must have been caused by the change of diet.
Jane is totally convinced that the link between dairy produce and breast cancer (and probably prostate cancer) is similar to that between smoking and lung cancer. There are some epidemiological studies which are consistent with this conclusion but this type of evidence does not prove “cause and effect”. Nevertheless the experience of Jane certainly cannot be discounted. She is a reputable scientist and there is absolutely no reason to doubt the veracity of her story.
- Jane A Plant (2000) “Your Life in Your Hands: Understanding, Preventing and Overcoming Breast Cancer”. Virgin: London