I had no alternative but to die or to try to find a cure for myself. I am a
scientist – surely there was a rational explanation for this cruel illness that
affects one in 12 women in the UK ?
I had suffered the loss of one breast, and undergone radiotherapy. I was
now receiving painful chemotherapy, and had been seen by some of the country’s
most eminent specialists. But, deep down, I felt certain I was facing death. I
had a loving husband, a beautiful home and two young children to care for. I
desperately wanted to live.
Fortunately, this desire drove me to unearth the facts, some of which
were known only to a handful of scientists at the time.
Anyone who has come into contact with breast cancer will know that certain risk
factors – such as increasing age, early onset of womanhood, late onset of
menopause and a family history of breast cancer – are completely out of our
control. But there are many risk factors, which we can control easily.
These “controllable” risk factors readily translate into simple
changes that we can all make in our day-to-day lives to help prevent or treat
breast cancer. My message is that even advanced breast cancer can be overcome
because I have done it.
The first clue to understanding what was promoting my breast cancer came
when my husband Peter, who was also a scientist, arrived back from working in
China while I was being plugged in for a chemotherapy session.
He had brought with him cards and letters, as well as some amazing herbal
suppositories, sent by my friends and science colleagues in China .
The suppositories were sent to me as a cure for breast cancer. Despite
the awfulness of the situation, we both had a good belly laugh, and I remember
saying that this was the treatment for breast cancer in China , then it was
little wonder that Chinese women avoided getting the disease.
Those words echoed in my mind. Why didn’t Chinese women in
China get breast cancer? I had collaborated once with
Chinese colleagues on a study of links between soil chemistry and disease, and
I remembered some of the statistics.
The disease was virtually non-existent throughout the whole country. Only one
in 10,000 women in China will die from it, compared to that terrible figure of
one in 12 in Britain and the even grimmer average of one in 10 across most
Western countries. It is not just a matter of China being a
more rural country, with less urban pollution. In highly urbanized Hong Kong ,
the rate rises to 34 women in every 10,000 but still puts the West to shame.
The Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have similar rates. And
remember, both cities were attacked with nuclear weapons, so in addition to the
usual pollution-related cancers, one would also expect to find some
radiation-related cases, too.
The conclusion we can draw from these statistics strikes you with some force.
If a Western woman were to move to industrialized, irradiated Hiroshima , she
would slash her risk of contracting breast cancer by half. Obviously this is
absurd. It seemed obvious to me that some lifestyle factor not related
to pollution, urbanization or the environment is seriously increasing the
Western woman’s chance of contracting breast cancer.
I then discovered that whatever causes the huge differences in breast cancer
rates between oriental and Western countries, it isn’t genetic.
Scientific research showed that when Chinese or Japanese people move to the
West, within one or two generations their rates of breast cancer approach those
of their host community.
The same thing happens when oriental people adopt a completely Western
lifestyle in Hong Kong . In fact, the slang name for breast cancer in China
translates as ‘Rich Woman’s Disease’. This is because, in China, only the
better off can afford to eat what is termed ‘ Hong Kong food’.
The Chinese describe all Western food, including everything from ice cream and
chocolate bars to spaghetti and feta cheese, as “Hong Kong
food”, because of its availability in the former British colony and its
scarcity, in the past, in mainland China .
So it made perfect sense to me that whatever was causing my breast
cancer and the shockingly high incidence in this country generally, it
was almost certainly something to do with our better-off, middle-class, Western
There is an important point for men here, too. I have observed in my research
that much of the data about prostate cancer
leads to similar conclusions.
According to figures from the World Health Organization, the number of men
contracting prostate cancer in rural China is negligible, only 0.5 men in every
100,000. In England, Scotland and Wales , however, this figure is 70
times higher. Like breast cancer, it is a middle-class disease that primarily
attacks the wealthier and higher socio-economic groups, those that can afford
to eat rich foods.
I remember saying to my husband, “Come on Peter, you have just come
back from China . What is it about the Chinese way of life that is so
Why don’t they get breast cancer?’
We decided to utilize our joint scientific backgrounds and approach it
We examined scientific data that pointed us in the general direction of fats in
Researchers had discovered in the 1980s that only l4% of calories in the
average Chinese diet were from fat, compared to almost 36% in the West.
But the diet I had been living on for years before I contracted breast cancer
was very low in fat and high in fiber.
Suddenly I recalled how many Chinese people were physically unable to
tolerate milk, how the Chinese people I had worked with had always said that
milk was only for babies, and how one of my close friends, who is of Chinese
origin, always politely turned down the cheese course at dinner parties.
I knew of no Chinese people who lived a traditional Chinese life who ever used
cow or other dairy food to feed their babies. The tradition was to use a wet
nurse but never, ever, dairy products.
Culturally, the Chinese find our Western preoccupation with milk and milk
products very strange. I remember entertaining a large delegation of Chinese
scientists shortly after the ending of the Cultural Revolution in the 1980s.
On advice from the Foreign Office, we had asked the caterer to provide a
pudding that contained a lot of ice cream. After inquiring what the pudding
consisted of, all of the Chinese, including their interpreter, politely but
firmly refused to eat it, and they could not be persuaded to change their
At the time we were all delighted and ate extra portions!
Milk, I discovered, is one of the most common causes of food allergies .Over 70% of the world’s population are
Before I had breast cancer for the first time, I had eaten a lot of dairy
produce, such as skimmed milk, low-fat cheese and yogurt. I had used it as my
main source of protein. I also ate cheap but lean minced beef, which I now
realized was probably often ground-up dairy cow.
In order to cope with the chemotherapy I received for my fifth case of cancer,
I had been eating organic yogurts as a way of helping my digestive tract to
recover and repopulate my gut with ‘good’ bacteria.
Recently, I discovered that way back in 1989 yogurt had been implicated in
ovarian cancer. Dr Daniel Cramer of Harvard University studied hundreds of
women with ovarian cancer, and had them record in detail what they normally
ate. Wish I’d been made aware of his findings when he had first discovered
Following Peter’s and my insight into the Chinese diet, I decided to give up
not just yogurt but all dairy produce immediately. Cheese, butter, milk and
yogurt and anything else that contained dairy produce – it went down the sink
or in the rubbish.
It is surprising how many products, including commercial soups, biscuits and
cakes, contain some form of dairy produce. Even
many proprietary brands of margarine marketed as soya, sunflower or olive oil
spreads can contain dairy produce
I therefore became an avid reader of the small print on food labels.
Up to this point, I had been steadfastly measuring the progress of my fifth
cancerous lump with callipers and plotting the results. Despite all the
encouraging comments and positive feedback from my doctors and nurses, my own
precise observations told me the bitter truth.
My first chemotherapy sessions had produced no effect – the lump was still the
Then I eliminated dairy products. Within days,
the lump started to shrink.
And, very significantly, I noted that instead of declining exponentially (a
graceful curve) as cancer is meant to do, the tumor’s decrease in size was
plotted on a straight line heading off the bottom of the graph, indicating a
cure, not suppression (or remission) of the tumor.
One Saturday afternoon after about six weeks of excluding all dairy produce
from my diet, I practiced an hour of meditation then felt for what was left of
the lump. I couldn’t find it. Yet I was very experienced at detecting cancerous
lumps – I had discovered all five cancers on my own. I went downstairs and
asked my husband to feel my neck. He could not find any trace of the lump
On the following Thursday I was due to be seen by my cancer specialist at
Charing Cross Hospital in London . He examined me thoroughly, especially my
neck where the tumor had been. He was initially bemused and then delighted as
he said, “I cannot find it.” None of my doctors, it appeared, had
expected someone with my type and stage of cancer (which had clearly spread to
the lymph system) to survive, let alone be so hale and hearty.
My specialist was as overjoyed as I was. When I first discussed my ideas with
him he was understandably skeptical. But I understand that he now uses maps
showing cancer mortality in China in his lectures, and recommends a non-dairy
diet to his cancer patients.
I now believe that the link between dairy
produce and breast cancer is similar to the link between smoking and lung
cancer. I believe that identifying the link between breast cancer
and dairy produce, and then developing a diet specifically targeted at maintaining
the health of my breast and hormone system, cured me.
It was difficult for me, as it may be for you, to accept that a substance as
‘natural’ as milk might have such ominous health implications. But I am a
living proof that it works and, starting from tomorrow, I shall reveal the
secrets of my revolutionary action plan.
Extracted from Your Life in Your Hands, by Professor Jane Plan
MBA,CISA, CGEIT, PMP, CBCP, MBCI
Auckland, New Zealand
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