Cancer on the rise, but it’s the same old (useless) prevention advice

By February 4, 2014Vegetable Oils

According to a new report from the WHO (World Health Organisation), more than forty three thousand Australians died from cancer in 2012. And despite huge advances in treatment, it is now the single biggest cause of death in Australia. Prevention is clearly the key to changing that future. Unfortunately those charged with advising us are blind to the real cause of this lethal epidemic.

It’s an unfortunate reality but we all know someone affected by cancer. And most of the people we know neither smoke, nor drink excessively nor live obviously ‘unhealthy lifestyles.’ And yet they have all been cut down often in the prime of their lives.

It feels increasingly like we are being stalked by a silent and random killer. It feels like cancer is no longer something that some of us must worry about if we make it to old age. It feels like things are getting worse and they are getting worse quickly.

The latest report on Cancer from the WHO provides some hard data to support that feeling of unease. It reveals that in the nine years the report covers, cancer diagnosis in Australia increased by an alarming 14 per cent. In 2003, 274 Australians per day were diagnosed. In 2012, it was 312 people. Per Day! Worse than that, the authors of the report expect that number to almost double in the next twenty years.

Sadly having identified the problem, the advice on what to do about it is the same vapid nonsense that we have received for the last three decades. We should stop smoking, stop drinking and “maintain a healthy weight.”

In 2012, Lung cancer accounted for 8.9 per cent of Australian cancers and it is irrefutably the case that smoking is the cause for the vast majority of lung cancer cases. The good news is that the number of Australians smoking and consequently the incidence of lung cancer has been in steady decline since the early 80s. So while smoking clearly causes cancer it is not responsible for the rise in cancer rates in the last decade.

Equally, the studies show some level of correlation between alcohol consumption and rates of some cancers (notably mouth, throat and liver) but for most cancers the association is weak. Many studies are quick to point out that any harder evidence is difficult to obtain because most people drink alcohol (making it very difficult to find a non-drinking population for comparison).

Australians are no exception, being among the world’s biggest drinkers, but our level of consumption has not changed much at all in the last twenty years. We drank about 10 litres per person per year in 1994 and in 2008 we were drinking 9. Once again it’s statistically difficult to pin the rise in cancers on the booze.

When it comes to weight, the science is even fuzzier. The correlations between obesity and cancer are certainly there but viable explanations as to why are very thin on the ground. Even rarer are trials (try none) which control for all the other possible explanations (most notably that obesity is just a symptom of overconsumption of something else that feeds cancer, such as fructose).

But there is one aspect of human nutrition and cancer that has been studied using a double-blind, randomized, controlled lengthy human trial. No correlations. No guessing about explanations. Just one dietary change which lead to just one powerful conclusion.

The trial was conducted in the late 1960s. It involved randomly allocating men to diets that contained animal fat (let’s call them the butter eaters) or diets where that fat was replaced with vegetable oils (the margarine eaters). After eight years, the butter eaters had half the rate of death from cancer when compared to the margarine eaters. And that’s even though the butter eaters had a much higher proportion of heavy smokers. It’s that simple, use vegetable oils for fat and humans die much more frequently from cancer.

In Australia today it is impossible to buy processed food which uses animal fat. There is one simple reason for this. It’s cheaper. All our packaged food is infused with cheap vegetable oils rather than expensive animal fats and our consumption of those cancer causing oils has inexorably risen as a result. Knowing this, the rise in cancer diagnosis is not a surprise. Rather it is the inevitable result of the profiteering ways of the processed food industry. And it will continue to rise for as long as we continue to consume these oils.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. The processed food industry are not intending to kill us. But when it comes to a choice between their profit today and whether you die of cancer in eight years, guess which wins. The science on this is old. But that does not make it any less sound. Vegetable oils cause death from cancer and the sooner our health authorities acknowledge that and stop telling us mend our ways (and often, to consume more vegetable oil), the safer we will all be. They need to stop blaming the victim.

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • lee says:

    Sorry David – I’ve got to disagree with a lot that you said. The association of alcohol and obesity with breast cancer is actually very strong – both double the risk and are a greater risk than family history. The increase in cancer risk is largely due to people ageing longer (age being one of the strongest risk factors, as you get older your body is less resilient at correcting DNA abnormalities) and improved diagnosis (as health care improves in developing countries and less people die of infectious diseases – more will succumb to cancer and the rates are going to sky rocket).
    Cancer causing agents are multifactorial – one of the biggest risks which as yet hasn’t been fully untangled, is exposure to viruses and bacteria which trigger inflammatory reactions in cells. Two strong links that have been established so far are Helicobacter pylori and stomach cancer, and Human Papilloma Virus and cervical cancer.
    I am certainly against processed foods and agree that they probably play a role too, but to say that butter is a healthy alternative is very simplistic. Alcohol is a potent chemical which also has marked inflammatory properties in the body.
    Lastly it is very interesting that the increase in cancer rates is occurring at the same time that people are living much longer. Perspective should be maintained.

  • Mke says:


    Your objections to David’s piece fail to address the findings of the Sydney Heart Study, where there was a very strong correlation between the consumption of PUFA and increased risk of cancer. There is a wealth of emerging data that supports the connection between disease risk and higher consumption of Omega 6 rich PUFAs and indicates that yes, butter is by far a much more healthy alternative to processed seed oils.

  • Des says:

    Alcohol in moderation, only becomes dangerous when consumed with VEGETABLE OILS.

  • Des says:

    People are living longer but unhealthier, more sickly lives because they are eating very poor quality “trendy” foods that are laced with bad oils, processed sugars and fats, soy, wheat, GMO’s, chemicals, fructose and a slew of other horrifyingly bad food-like products.

    If people ate more real butter, full fat meats, raw cheeses and yogurts and milk, vegetables, fruit, seafood, and safe starches, we would not have a cancer epidemic. If environmental factors were the reason people got cancer, well, we would all have cancer.

    The rise of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and illnesses is a result of poor immunity to these viruses which is caused by a horrifically poor diet.

  • Paul Verizzo says:

    It’s more than that!

    Google combinations of “alcohol” “liver” “saturated fats” and similar and you will find there is study after study that shows saturated fats not only prevent liver disease, it can cure it!

    I’m 67 years old and by all measures, a heavy drinker. My physician knows this. Yet, year after year, my liver enzyme tests are at the very bottom of the normal range. Why? A diet heavy in saturated fats. I record everything I eat because it helps me with weight control. Overall, my saturated-monounsaturated-polyunsaturated ratio pretty much runs mono at about 50% of saturated, and PUFA about 1/3rd or less than mono.

    My blood panel results are top tier. Lots of HDL, low to moderate trigs, low VLDL, great ratios.

    Doc says, “Keep doing what you are doing.”

    Throw out all “vegetable” oils. Ear real food. Drink what you want. Done.

  • Angela stock says:

    I agree with des. We have been using butter and all full fat products for 2 years now. I have been sugar free for that time. I will not touch margarine or any vegetable oils. But it is very hard when shopping to buy anything with out it.
    My cholesterol has gone down and I have lost 11 kilos. For years I was a non-fat, low-fat eater and was just getting fatter and more unhealthy. People are shocked sometimes when we say we cook with lard., but we are loosing weight and feeling healthier then we ever have. Keep up the good work david.

  • Jan in Canada says:

    I have never been a fan of processed “food” and have pretty much always been a scratch cook. On June 1st I decided to eliminate bread (and while I was at it, pasta, potatoes, and anything with sugar) just because I felt like it might be a good thing to do. In July I read Grain Brain and Wheat Belly. Over the course of the summer (here), we’ve filled up on more fresh veggies, fruit (yes, I know – fructose), game, free-range chicken and coconut and olive oils, butter and bacon fat (from pastured pork) and thirty-six pounds (16+ kg) have just melted away without doing anything else. Now that winter is coming and I can’t work outside, I’m going to walk in the snow with the dogs. A calorie is not just a calorie and I’d rather have butter than sugar.

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  • Anil Dogra says:

    Our body is oblivious to what we eat. Its supposed to remove the toxicity and assimilate the goodness from any food we intake. The liver is the key. Make it more efficient with herbs and no cancer can ever accummulate within you.

  • Paul Verizzo says:

    Wow. What woo woo horse pucky. Have you ever taken a science class? Studied logic or statistics? No, I knew you haven’t.

    “Our body is oblivious to what we eat.” Holy Mother of the Goddess.

    Ask Steve Jobs about eating lots of vegetables and herbs. Oh, wait, you can’t.

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