A historical look at Cancer

Note: I was fascinated by the historical research found in today’s passage and I hope you will too. Thanks to Linus Pauling and Ewan Cameron for their research involving Vitamin C and its effects on cancer.

This book was recommended by Dr. Michael Savage when I was researching methods to help my sister fight (and beat) an adult onset of cancer of the thymus. Although she had treatment by chemo and radiation, I do not doubt that her major turn in her diet, going organic, high on vegetables and fruits, moderation in meats, using some high quality supplements and by and large eliminating most of the junk she used to eat resulted in a marked improvement in her countenance, energy, and outlook.

I am a strong proponent of a diet high in natural sources of vitamin C and I personally supplement with higher than typical doses of Vitamin C when fighting illness, infection, injury or after eating foods that may be high in carcinogens.

There is mainly one common side effect of Vitamin C that I’ve encountered in clinical application and that is of stomach cramping leading to diarrhea. A rare case that indicates caution is if the patient has high iron levels the blood (hemochromatosis) since Vitamin C aids in the binding of dietary iron for transfer into the blood. On the other hand, the function of adequate Vitamin C is valuable for low iron patients.

This is a longer than usual passage for my blog, but I believe you will find it a useful source of historical information.

This is one of ht enlaces my sister travelled to after she beat her cancer in 2013. (Photo by Challen Yee - 1989)

This is one of the places my sister travelled to after she beat her cancer in 2013. (Photo by Challen Yee – 1989)

From Linus Pauling and Ewan Cameron’s “Cancer and Vitamin C” (1993)

Excerpt from the chapter  “The Causes of Cancer”

At this moment more than one million Americans are under medical care for cancer. This year about 395,000 of them will die, one every minute and a half. And, of course, we must not think only of the United States. This is a world problem, and from that wider perspective we see that every four seconds a human being, with all his hopes and aspirations, is dying from cancer, possibly quite miserably.

These statistics are frightening.

What is the cause of all this suffering?

In a more innocent age, cancer was regarded as an act of God. We are now beginning to realize that many, and indeed probably the majority, of human cancers are man-made, the results of our careless and almost criminal pollution of our environment.

The first recognition of an environmental cause of cancer is attributed to Sir Percival Pott, a London surgeon who in 1775 described the cancer of the scrotum that was prevalent among the adolescent chimney sweeps of his day as an occupational disease. Since their early childhood they had been, to quote Sir Percival, “thrust up narrow and sometimes hot chimneys.” His conclusion was that “the disease in these people seems to derive its origin from the lodgement of soot in the rugae (skin creases) of the scrotum.” Thus over two centuries ago there was given a clear and concise description of a “cause-and-effect” occupational cancer, and more than an inkling as to how it might be prevented. Early in the present century patient work in a Japanese laboratory (the daily painting of a rabbit’s ears with soot suspensions for week after week) did prove that soot (and later some of its identifiable chemical constituents) is indeed carcinogenic – able to give rise to cancer.

In later years many other forms of occupational cancer were recognized. When the causative carcinogen was identified it became possible to institute and enforce preventive measures and thus to eliminate the hazard. One of these diseases was the “Mule-spinners cancer” of the “Dark Satanic Cotton Mills” of Victorian England, again a scrotal cancer, caused by the constant saturation of work clothes by hot lubricating oil splashing from the steam-powered looms. Then there was the recognition of an abnormally high incidence of lung cancer among the uranium miners of Joachimsthal in Bohemia, where only much later was it recognized that the ores are highly radioactive
and that the radioactive gas radon is present in the air. The solid radioactive decay products of the inhaled radon were deposited in the lungs, where they produced carcinogenic rays. About one half of the miners who had died up to 1939 had developed lung cancer. There was also the belated recognition in Germany and Russia, and later in the United States and Britain, of an abnormally high incidence of bladder cancer among workers in the aniline dyestuffs industry and other industries who were exposed to the substance B-naphthylamine. More recently it has been recognized that workers and other people exposed to asbestos have a high incidence of an unusually vicious cancer of the pleura and peritoneum, and even more alarmingly that this increased incidence occurs in family members whose only contact with asbestos came through the dust brought home on the workers’ clothes. There was a particularly high incidence of this rather rare form of cancer in Japan that has been explained by the fact that the rice that they ate had been polished with asbestos fibers. An increased incidence of cancer has been observed also in other industries and many carcinogenic agents have been identified, such as carbon black in print workers, carbon tetrachloride in dry cleaners, benzpyrene in roofing, asphalt, and coke oven workers, polychlorobiphenyls in paper-mill workers, vinyl chloride in the plastics industry, and many more.

Then came the clear demonstration of the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Cigarette smoking became fashionable among men in the 1920’s, and about 25 years later the world experienced an explosive growth of lung cancer among men.
Between 1910 and 1940 the average number of cigarettes smoked per day by men in the United States increased eight-fold, from about 0.5 per day to 4 per day. Between 1930 and 1960 the mortality from lung cancer (the number of deaths per 100,000 men per year) also increased about eight-fold, from 4 to 35. For women nearly similar increases in cigarette smoking and then in mortality from lung cancer occurred, with a delay of 25 years.

Lung cancer now causes 35 percent of the cancer deaths in men, more than any other kind of cancer. In 1978 close to 100,000 men and women in the United States died of lung cancer, for the most part because they smoked popular cigarettes. Moreover, cigarette smokers have an increased probability at each age of dying from other forms of cancer and from heart disease and other diseases. The average cigarette smoker develops serious illnesses and dies 8 years earlier than the average non-smoker. On the average, each cigarette smoked decreases the life expectancy of the smoker by 10 minutes.

It is the delay of 15 to 30 years between exposure to the carcinogen, such as cigarette smoke, and the development of the recognizable cancer that worries many thoughtful people in the world today, people who can remember when cigarette smoking was a perfectly acceptable social habit with no suspicion of any danger. Since the Second World War we have lived in an increasingly “chemical” society, with plastics, pesticides, herbicides, artificial colors and flavors, food additives, and other chemicals to which the human body is not accustomed being manufactured on a gigantic scale. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 60,000 chemicals are already in commercial use and that new ones are coming into use at the rate of 1000 a year. Many of these agents have been recognized to be carcinogenic and some of them have been banned. The tragedy is that it takes time to identify the carcinogens, however, and many people who are exposed to them before they are recognized and removed from the market will appear only after the induction period of two to three decades.
High-energy radiation in all its forms – alpha, beta, and gamma rays from radioactive substances, cosmic rays, x-ray, and even ultraviolet rays in sunlight – also is carcinogenic. The high incidence of cancer in workers in the uranium industry has already been mentioned. Many of the women from 1916 to 1924 painted the dials on watches and clocks with a radioactive paint and who brought a brush to a fine point by putting it between their lips thus getting the radioactive radium or thorium into their bones, died later of bone cancer. The radioactive atomic nuclei liberated into the atmosphere by the test explosions of nuclear weapons (strontium 90, cesium 137, carbon 14, and others) are now present in every human being and continue to increase the incidence of cancer all over the world. Many of the scientists and physicians who worked with x-rays during the first decade or two after their discovery in 1896, until their carcinogenic power was discovered, developed cancer.

The natural exposure of people to high-energy radiation, part of which comes from cosmic rays and part from natural radioactivity (radium, potassium 40, tritium), varies from place to place but amounts on the average to about 100 milliroentgens per year. This unavoidable exposure causes genetic mutations that lead to the birth of infants with minor or gross congenital defects and also causes cancer. There is some uncertainty about how much cancer is caused by this amount of high-energy radiation, but we have confidence in the estimate made by Dr. Hardin B. Jones, late Professor of Medical Physics and Physiology in the University of California, Berkeley, who concluded that 9 percent of all cases of cancer are produced by it.

The average exposure of people in the United States to medical x-rays for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes is about the same, 100 milliroentgens per year, and medical x-rays may thus cause as many cancers as background radiation. Of course, it must be remembered that the use of x-rays in medical practice is of great value, and that the danger of genetic and somatic damage by the x-rays is one that often must be taken, although it should be kept to a minimum by taking care that the x-ray exposure is not made except when necessary and then not in amounts greater than necessary.

Continued exposure to sunlight of people whose skin is not strongly pigmented is related to an increased incidence of skin cancer. The conclusion that this increased incidence is caused by the ultraviolet rays in the sunlight has been made highly probable by careful studies of a similar effect of ultraviolet light on hairless mice.

Another apparent cause of cancer is heat. For example, some people in India who warm themselves by holding a pot of glowing coals under their clothes have an increased incidence of cancer of the skin in the area that is repeatedly heated by the hot pot…

… Now that we understand the enemy, we have the duty to conquer him. Cancer is caused by agents and conditions that change the genetic material in the cells of our bodies. It is clearly sensible for us to strive to prevent these changes and thus to prevent cancer. High-energy radiation causes cancer; hence we should avoid being exposed to it — no unnecessary x-rays, no over-exposure to sunlight, no radioactive pollution from nuclear weapons tests or nuclear power plants. Many chemicals cause cancer; hence we should try to identify them and to ban them. Moreover, as will be pointed out later, vitamin C is a rather general detoxifying agent, and its proper use can help to protect us against carcinogenic chemicals, even those in tobacco smoke, although here the only sensible course is to stop smoking. Our normal tissues and organs fight the renegade malignancy; it is our duty to ourselves to help strengthen them in this fight, and there is evidence that vitamin C and other nutrients provide this strengthening influence.


It is noteworthy that this is from a 1993 revision, 20 years ago, and the actual number of  chemicals used  and the statistics do not reflect 2014 levels.

If you’d like to order Pauling and Cameron’s   “Cancer and Vitamin C”  please click here.


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