Christina Applegate's Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Christina Applegate’s diagnosis of breast cancer at age 36, brings to our awareness the question, why now, after so many millions spent on cancer research, do so many women still get and die of breast cancer? This diagnosis in such a young celebrity will incite a new media frenzy for more donations for cancer research. Cancer research means more testing for new drugs. I doubt any significant reduction in cancer deaths will result as long as we ignore causation and still expect to discover new poisons to defeat cancer. Deaths from breast cancer have increased throughout the last century and modern medical care has done little to halt this trend.

Imagine if that money was instead spent on educating the public about the environmental and nutritional causes of cancer. We could slash breast cancer rates by 70 to 90 percent if the money that went to cancer research (almost exclusively drug research) instead went to fund a huge publicity campaign to beat cancer at its roots. How many people know, childhood diets are the main cause of adult cancers? I have studied this subject for years, read thousands of studies and wrote a book about it called Disease-Proof Your Child. However, I learned not many people care about this subject. Knowledge about real cancer prevention is not politically correct and the spread of this message is unlikely to happen as the social, economic and political climate in the modern world revolves around promotion of processed foods and dairy products as the center of childhood nutritional practices. It is blasphemy to produce scientific studies that expose our present day feeding practices as cancer-causing. This message is not what people want to hear, they want a magic pill. Information about cancer causation does not fly in the media.

Flip around the dial, listen to the discussions about cancer in the media and read the articles. Do any of them bring up diet as the cause of cancer? Do the television personalities discuss that over 60 percent of food consumed in America is junk food? That’s right, we have crossed over the 60 percent line, white flour, (pasta, bagels, crackers) sweeteners, oils, chips, processed cereals, soft drinks and other junk foods are the vast majority of what we eat. Add cheese and other dairy foods, full of hormones and saturated fat, and you have a simple formula to create the cancer explosion we have seen in the modern world over the last 75 years. Put low micronutrient, high glycemic carbohydrates together with lots of cheese in your child’s mouth and boom, watch the cancer-creating experiment unfold (it usually takes about 40 years).

Now, while articles tussle with the argument of whether breast MRI’s or mammograms are more appropriate as an early detection tool, those in the know realize that there is no such thing as early detection and all cancers diagnosed with radiographic techniques must be large enough to be visualized with the human eye, so they have been there more than 10 years already.

When Christina Applegate’s publicist reports “it was not serious and caught in the early stage” we know that is not factual. Present medical science has no way of determining whether cells have spread outside the breast. A stage zero cancer means that it less than 2 centimeters and no cancer was found in the lymph nodes, however that still does not tell us that it was caught before cancer cells have spread. Most invasive breast cancers have seeded the body with cells by the time a mammogram or MRI can detect it. Negative lymph nodes on a biopsy does not tell us the cancer is still localized to the breast because a small number of cells are for practical purposes invisible.

There are both aggressive and non-aggressive breast cancers. It was not announced which type Ms. Applegate has, but the more aggressive breast cancers are more common in young women. They spread out from the breast at an earlier stage.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive breast cancer that spreads locally and there is no significant advantage to early detection because these cancers are not generally life threatening and can be detected later when they are larger with a good prognosis. Hopefully Christina has this type. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is an example of breast cancer that is more aggressive.

Genetics plays a minor role, not the major role. Dietary practices have been identified by scientific studies as the primary cause of breast cancers. The countries with the highest incidence of cancers of the breast are in North America, Western Europe and Australia, while in contrast, the occurrence is lowest in Southeast Asia.1 For example, when compared to the United States, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand have only one-twentieth the amount of breast cancer in the 50-75 age bracket. Breast and Prostate cancer are the most prevalent cancers in America.

Diets lower in animal products (especially cheese) and higher in unrefined plant foods account for these dramatic differences. When people from a low risk country migrate to the United States, their cancer rate increases considerably and the cancer rate in their offspring jumps up to match other Americans. This demonstrates that the lower incidence of these cancers is not due to a lower genetic susceptibility in Asians, but rather due to the exposure to Western dietary practices.2 Plant-derived micronutrients reduce toxic stress and arm the body’s defenses against cancer.

The growing body, with its dividing cells, is at greater risk when exposed to all types of negative and toxic influences. In adults, our valuable genetic material (DNA) is wound up in a tight ball, like the rubber bands on the inside of a golf ball. When we are young and cells are replicating and growing, the DNA unwinds, exposing more of its surface. This makes it more susceptible to damage from toxic exposure. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, infants and toddlers have a ten times greater cancer risk than adults when exposed to gene-damaging chemicals.3 In a similar manner, an unhealthy diet can do substantially more damage to a young body than an adult one. The fact is, the earlier in life, the greater the potential for damage.

The idea that eating an anti-cancer diet in our childhood is more important in determining cancer risk than waiting to eat healthy as an adult, has been tested in animals by Dr. Jerald Silverman of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ohio State with a grant from the American Institute for Cancer Research. He chose to study a strain of mice very susceptible to breast cancer. He put one group on a diet low in fat their entire lives and with the other group he switched them from a high fat diet to a healthier low fat one at different times; some before puberty, some at puberty and some after puberty. The study showed the same thing we see in human studies; those mice fed the high fat diet early in life had more cancer and more of the cancer spread to the lung, and the earlier the change to the healthier lower fat diet the better the mice fared.

The things we are exposed to earlier in life are crucial to our later health. If a nuclear power plant exploded nearby, dousing us all in heavy radiation, it would not cause a significant increase in cancer occurrence for at least 30 years. For example, the excess risk for breast, prostate and colon cancer among atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki continues to be observed today, and persists throughout the lifetime of the survivors. The largest grouping of the radiation-related cancer deaths for these common cancers occurred in the period from 1986 to 1990, forty to forty five years after exposure.4

Recent studies have also found fruit eating during childhood had powerful effects to protect against cancer in later life. A 60-year study of 4,999 participants found those who consumed more fruit in their childhood (highest quartile) were 38 percent less likely to develop cancer of all types as adults.5 There is much more here and the science is fascinating. I could go on and on with hundreds of more studies, telling this story, of food and other factors initiating cancer, but the point is—we already know enough about how to beat breast cancer. We can implement good science to win the war on cancer. We can do it now. We must eat right.

For adults at risk or who already have cancer, nutritional excellence is a critical intervention one can use to reduce risk and significantly increase the chance of survival.

Eat a high-nutrient, vegetable-based diet as described in my books, Eat To Live and Eat For Health. Green vegetables are the most powerful anti-breast cancer food. Take note that a vegetarian diet does not show protection against breast cancer as much as a diet rich in green vegetables, berries, and seeds. It is the phytochemical nutrient density and diversity of the diet that offers the most dramatic protection against cancer, not merely the avoidance of meat or fat.

1. Doll R, Muir C, Waterhouse J. International Union Against Cancer (UICC) Cancer Incidence in five continents. Vol VI, Lyon 1997.

2. Ziegler RG, Hoover RN, Pike MC et al. Migration patterns and breast cancer risk in Asian-American women. J Natl Cancer Inst 1993;85(22):1819-1827.

3. Dourson M, Charnley G, Scheuplein R. Differential sensitivity of children and adults to chemical toxicity. II. Risk and regulation. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2002;35(3):448-467. Miller MD, Marty MA, Arcus A, et al. Differences between children and adults: implications for risk assessment at California EPA. Int J Toxicol 2002;21(5):403-418.

4. McPherson K, Steel CM, Dixon JM. ABC of Breast Diseases, Breast cancer—epidemiology, risk factors, and genetics. BMJ 2000;321:624-628. Pierce DA, Shimizu Y, Preston DL, et al. Studies of the mortality of atomic bomb survivors. Report 12, Part I. Cancer: 1950-1990 RERF Report No. 11-95 Radiat Res 1996;146:1-27.

5. Maynard M, Gunnell D, Emmett P, et al. Fruit, vegetable and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort. J Epidemiol Community Health 2003;57:218-225.

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Comments (22) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Rae - August 6, 2008 4:42 PM

What a great post with lots of scientific studies to back it up. Thanks mom and dad for all the fruits and veggies! And thanks Dr. Fuhrman for keeping us on the cutting edge of good health!

figsandolives - August 6, 2008 4:45 PM

Very good article. I especially like this clarification

"Green vegetables are the most powerful anti-breast cancer food. Take note that a vegetarian diet does not show protection against breast cancer as much as a diet rich in green vegetables, berries, and seeds. It is the phytochemical nutrient density and diversity of the diet that offers the most dramatic protection against cancer, not merely the avoidance of meat or fat."


I am curious though, how much is breast cancer risk related to young women who have not had children/breast-fed which I believe to be the case for Christina?

Nicole - August 6, 2008 6:19 PM

Thanks for the post. Find out more about the environmental factors related to breast cancer at http://www.breastcancerfund.org/

John Gilpin - August 6, 2008 10:04 PM

Dr. Fuhrman,

Your post is excellent as far as it goes, but I believe it neglects two important factors, as does the May 04 newsletter it refers to.

As you yourself note in your Sep 05 newsletter, inadequacy in vitamin D is a risk factor for several major kinds of cancer (and numerous other diseases), and a regrettably large proportion of the American population is vitamin D inadequate. This fact is particularly important because it tells us something simple we can do NOW to have major effects SOON (within a year, it seems).

In addition, there is a large volume of research testifying to the part that ionizing radiation plays in the genesis of several kinds of cancer, specifically including breast cancer. The work of the late John W. Gofman is especially powerful.

See for example: http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/PBC/

Also: http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/RMP/execsumm.html

None of this detracts in the slightest from the crucial importance of your own work.

John Gilpin
Champaign IL

BonnieB - August 6, 2008 10:05 PM

Thank God! An article about cancer, not just breast cancer, that makes a case for nutrition. And it casually slams "poisons" (drugs) as a cure, thank you again Dr.Fuhrman. When is the media going to wake up and smell the coffee? Why don't more of them READ? Cancer is not something that strikes like lightening, randomly. It is set up years ahead of time. Much of it is caused by poor diet. We are able to choose differently. But someone has to warn those who are not interested enough to find out on their own. I will be buying and reading Dr. Fuhrman's books immediately.

Theresa A - August 7, 2008 2:42 AM

Very well said, in a rush of passionate intellectual inspiration. I'm considering memorizing it word for word for a future presentation on the same subject should I get the chance to share. I have learned that if I learn it well, I will have a chance to share and do some good for the right folks.
thank you Dr. Fuhrman..

diane lassen - August 7, 2008 5:53 AM

Dr. Fuhrman, thank you for an excellent article once again. As a nurse, I am well aware of the risk factors for breast cancer, of which I have many: I have not had children, therefore I have not breast fed, I do drink some red wine, and have a mother who died from it as well. However, I do believe that with the lifestyle I lead, it is unlikely that I will succumb to this disease-- I eat a heavily plant-based diet (much moreso after finding out about you!) and I exercise everyday. I still need to work more on stress reduction, but all in all, I am refining my diet more and more with every new bit of information I find. I enjoy your writings very much, and they are the backbone of not only what I practice, but also what I teach my patients and clients. I thank you for being at the forefront in preventive health care.
respectfully yours
Diane Lassen, RN, HHC

Joel Fuhrman, MD - August 7, 2008 8:38 AM

I agree that breast cancer and other cancers are not all caused by diet. Vitamin D deficiency, exposure to artificial light during sleep, plastics, estrogens, pesticides and other chemical carcinogens play a role too. This short opinion piece was not intended to be a complete explanation of all the contributing factors, but rather to encourage the re-direction of our focus as a nation from detecting and curing (which has failed), to prevention, where we have a chance for real success.

Katie - August 7, 2008 12:30 PM

I too appreciate Dr. Fuhrman's article. Thanks to Dr. Fuhrman, I now eat a healthy plant based diet and have never felt better! However, I can't help but wonder if my poor diet when I was younger will catch up with me and cancel out all of this healthy eating now.

Dr Greg Fitzgerald - August 7, 2008 6:19 PM

Cancer, like all chronic disease, is multi-factorial in causation. Nutrition is definitely one of the most important causes. If hospitals became fasting clinics which then re-educated cancer patients on vegan nutrition emphasising high-nutrient green & colored vegetables, mortality from all cancers would decline drammatically. Of course this will never happen.

joan lyons - August 9, 2008 11:22 AM

I am an RN and a breast cancer survivor of 8 years. The other day I was doing house hold chores, a thought came to my mind.

What have all the monies that have been raised by groups and organizations across the country to support research with a goal of a cure, done? The monies raised from these organizations alone must be in the millions of dollars by now. And, still no cure..just more drugs. I wonder if people think about this. I sure do. Let's face it detecting and treating cancer is a big busniness. Enough said.

I have respectivley and gently offered my journey, nutritional advise, and lifestyle changes to those who have gone down this path and I often find they are reluctant to listen. I believe it is out of fear, although I cannot be sure. Or, is it perhaps a matter of putting all their trust in physicians and drugs they prescribe.

I met Dr Furham at a Holistic Mom's conference in NJ that I attended with one of my daughters. Listening to you speak helped to reinforce the message of healthy food choices. She has 2 young children and does her best to feed them healthy food choices.

Thank you for this artice. It is a great overview of the food related cause of all cancers and the need to eat a healthy diet ALL of our lives.

John Gilpin - August 10, 2008 9:59 PM

Dr. Fuhrman,

You might find interesting the case that Dr. Gofman makes for the importance of ionizing radiation as a major cause of many kinds of cancer. It exposes the myths, pretensions, and deficiencies of conventional medicine in the same sort of fashion that your own work does.

Baldly (but accurately) stated: Doctors cause cancer!

That is, ionizing radiation exposure causes cancer, and doctors, by ordering Xrays, fluoroscopies, CAT-scans, etc, cause radiation exposure. (Diagnostic radiation, not therapeutic, is the subject of discussion, and the bottom-line recommendation is NOT to stop using diagnostic Xrays, but simply to minimize exposure by many known methods that are commonly left unexploited.)

In his capstone tour-de-force, Radiation from Medical Procedures, Gofman looked at the number of doctors per hundred thousand of population in various parts of the country in the first half of the last century. Then he examined the number of cancers occurring in the middle of that century. (Both doctors and people in general moved around very little in those days compared to since.)

A set of remarkable graphs succinctly tells the story. The graph of all-cause death rates (*except* cancer and heart disease) shows, as one would expect, the more doctors, the lower the death rates. But the graph for cancer mortality shows the opposite—the more doctors, the higher the death rates!

Gofman was expecting that result; it's why he did the work. But the confirming proof was a second finding – the more doctors, the higher the death rate for heart disease, too. Gofman turned to the literature and found that radiation-caused benign tumors in the blood vessels may be an important contributor to heart disease mortality. Being unexpected, the heart-disease result strongly supports the soundness of the entire analysis.

To see the graphs, link to: http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/RMP/execsumm.html
and scroll down almost to the end until the graphs show up. I recommend to look first at Figure 1-C to become familiar with how the graphs are laid out, then look at Figure 1-A, then at Figure 1-B. The graphs are striking enough to perhaps be featured sometime in this blog.

Vitamin D is important because it is an easy, simple, safe, and cheap thing that people can do right away to protect themselves and their loved ones. The facts about ionizing radiation are important because the change that is required is not for the entire population to change the way it eats, but only for a subset of medical professionals to make straightforward modifications to the way they practice.

All these measures – improving nutrition, reducing radiation exposure, achieving vitamin D adequacy – can contribute to reducing the scourge of cancer in America. As you note, and as Dr. Gofman noted too, there are many contributing causes to cancer. (The apparent reductions in breast cancer following the reductions in hormone replacement therapy are probably relevant testimony.) As you say so well, if the large resources spent searching for cancer "cures" were used to educate people about prevention, the payoff would be much bigger and come much sooner.

John Gilpin

reader - August 10, 2008 11:23 PM

I have stumbled across vidoes on youtube that claim that a certain vitamin (namely, vitamin b17) is preventative towards cancer. they claim that this is found in high concentrations in apple and cherry seeds, among other things. on the other hand, I've also read on other sites that these seeds are poisonous if consumed in large quantities. the former claims that this is a myth put out there by the big pharma companies. so which is true? should we be consuming these seeds or not? Dr. Furhman, I don't believe I've heard you refer to this vitamin? is the b17 "cure" a myth? can you please enlighten me? I am confused by conflicting information!

Sharon - August 11, 2008 1:47 PM

Very good article. I am a 6-year surviving breast cancer patient. I have had my 5th recurrence this year and was given less than a year to live. I have drastically changed my diet and lifestyle which falls directly in line with Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations. My most recent matastasis has been to the lymphatic channels on the back and sides of my neck and under my right breast in the form of a multitude of very fast growing, high grade, small clustered breast cancer tumors under the skin as well as the beginning of tumors on the brain. In the last month, I have experienced these tumors not only stop growing and multiplying, but am experiencing a reversal of that growth. The tumors are very slowly shrinking and the area is softening and normal color is returning. In the last week, the headaches have ceased.

I have learned that diet is not the only component to combatting cancer, but it is certainly a major factor.

I might add that my oncologist is not very happy with me. I have refused all medications and all future diagnostics that involve radiation.

Thank you Dr. Fuhrman!

Steve Verdon - August 15, 2008 1:12 PM

I am sorry to hear of the attack of cancer to Ms applegate. The article is forceful this is what I like about Dr. Furmin. We need a massive reorientation to every aspect of our daily regimen, our personal bodies, but as well and immediately how and where we drive, with a national policy toward solar conversion (sustainable on every level). I am currently on the 16th day of a fast Lemonade 6-10 glasses per day(10 oz. water to 2 Tbls. of Maple syrup to 1/10th teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper. I have read Dr. Furmin's book on fasting. His thinking is sound as with H. Shelton. do you think a fast for Ms. Applegate would prove positive? Thank You Dr. Furmin your clarity, proofs, and diligent determination are an excellent representation of how our medical establishment on to be.

shelagh waters - August 18, 2008 4:04 PM

I agree with Dr Fuhrman's analysis in every way. As a BSN and certified Holistic Counselor, I work with clients every day who are survivors (You are called a Survivor the moment you are diagnosed with cancer)and are searching for answers to their diagnosis and because of this life changing event are finally ready to be motivated for change through nutrition. I follow these basic rules: Eat often; Not too much; Mostly plants.
Thanks for another great article.
Shelagh Waters BSN, CHC
Founder & Director, Corwellness

Susan - August 19, 2008 7:53 PM

My thoughts on the subject are very much in line with what this article presents. I don't read much 'mainstream' media because they tend to miss the point. Ironically I was looking for 'mainstream' media articles (for a change) to see what silly things they had to say about Christina Applegate's unfortunate situation and found this article. I believe we are moving towards a cultural acceptance of these truths. Brilliant.

Mary - August 24, 2008 3:36 PM

Thanks Dr. Fuhrman for the insights.

A question for you:

My mother, my mother’s identical twin sister, mother’s older sister all died from breast cancer. All at different stages in their life. Mom, fifties, mom's twin late thirties, mom's older sister in her late sixties. I was diagnosed at age 38. As for Mom, mom's twin and I, all were diagnosed after several years of heavy amounts of family related stress, which for me totally tanked my immune system for over a year.

Mom's older sisters, daughter, recently diagnosed in late fifties, after again heavy amounts of stress.

I have been tested for genetic links, all testing available, and no link whatsoever.

Diets in childhood and adult life were not the same for any of us; they varied significantly between us all.

What are your thoughts on stress factors and cancer?

donna - August 26, 2008 12:25 PM

did you have gene testing? i think it is heridity rather than stress .

donna - August 26, 2008 12:32 PM

I am perplexed about what stage cancer christina has they did not share her path report with us and i can not locate any info on her report. carcinoma in situ or is it a staged cancer 1 would also be classified an early cancer which also is usually treat with chemo even if a mastectomy is done. and is treated with a hormone and chemo. I have an early stage cancer and i am waiting to see oncologist had a mastectomy and will need chem probally because of my desire to be cured at 52 years young i want to be 100% cancer free. If christina had a cancer other than stage 0 she may or may not ber 100% CANCER FREE

Mary - August 27, 2008 6:48 PM

Donna,

Yes, gene testing, many tests, many of the newer testing now available, loads of paperwork, they tried like crazy to find a family link. They could find no heridity and/or family link whatsoever.

Wish they could, we could then piece together best practices to use as our next family generation grows up.

Jennifer - December 29, 2009 1:59 PM

I was just diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. And I have a problem with the statement of eating right and excercise as a risk reducer. I am 41 years old, eat fruit everyday, excercise at least 60 minutes per day and drink a lot of water and I have done this since I was a teenager. I, unfortunately, was born into a high risk family. Mother, sister, all my mother's sisters (3), and a first cousin on my mother's side all had breast cancer. Tested positive for the brca2 gene. So genetics plays a big part in breast cancer. So no matter how good you take care of yourself and watch what you eat, if you are predisposed to a defect in your genes, your odds are that much higher that you will get cancer sometime in your life. GOOD LUCK!!!

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