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Cancer: A Disease of Industrialization

by Zac Goldsmith

A major element in the accepted philosophy of the cancer medical establishment, is an assumption that

cancer ran rampant among traditional people to as great

industrial society, and as such is largely an unavoidable disease. But can such an assumption, so vital for the legitimization of a medical philosophy based on accommodation, rather than the prevention, of ill-health, be justified?

an extent, if not greater, than that of modern

T he 'health' of industrialized economies

resents the health of societies o n whic h that ubiquitous Western economi c mode l has bee n imposed. O n the

contrary, economic growth as a process is itself inextricably linked and in som e way s dependent upo n societal sickness.

n o longer rep­

lonexistence of the disease amon g those whos e lifestyles have Iremained virtually unchange d for millennia. In order, however, for the cancer establishment to remai n wedde d to the mor e lucrative path of accommodation as opposed to prevention of

disease, a n assumption icer is both traditional an d


Thus , Irish economi c analysts are able rightly to point out that

(in order to justify further

h e

spent o n research)

anything resembling a lasting peace treaty in that country

decreasing, mus t


maintained an u r'lv justified in the

woul d have dire consequences for those man y thousands

face of evidence


the contrary. A beiK lustrialization

employe d in the business of accommodating , avoiding an d

an d 'progress' requires a

faith in the sam e assu

> y n. namely

the mor e cars

for highways ,

highway patrol officers, road maintenance crews and of course ambulances with their accompanying wealth of med ­ ical wizardry. A n increase in crim e also provides a vacuu m for growth, furthering the need for police, prisons an d lawyers - not to mention huge opportunities for a rapidly increasing paranoia industry. Consistent with this pattern, a billion dollar industry has

dealing with the results of conflict. Likewise, built, sold an d maintained, the greater the nee d

that traditional people in traditional contexts are . >ne to


is further scientific research and high-tech medical gadgc,

such degenerative diseases, that the only salvation i. •

Traditional Society and Cancer

Sadly, w e have allowed too muc h time to pass, subjected too man y cultures to colonization and industrialization to be able to carry out an expansive and honest study of cancer amon g tradi­

tional societies, the likes of whic h barely exist today, except in

a few isolated, but n o w

threatened, regions. O u r con­ clusions, therefore, must be based o n past scientific studies,

as well as overwhelm!tig anec­ dotal, experiential evidence. O f course, there is little

point from a business perspec­ tive in promoting research into

grow n u p around the almost epidemic problem of cancer. Powerful institutions, vast multinational pharmaceutical businesses and a very large number of people have

become wholly dependent not o n prevention, but o n the con- tinued existence and growth of that problem. What's more, if it is true, as most independent

researchers will testify, that man-mad e chemicals and indus­

trial pollutants are mor e often than

not the cayse o f this

epidemic, then the very pillars o f moder n industrial economie s

stand to be toppled. A s such, it ca n hardly be surprising that the cancer establishment an d large chemica l companie s hav e set out systematically and in full force to discredit such an analy­ sis wit h astoundin g determination . $ Cancer is not increasing, w e are told. It is both normal an d natural that over one in three people mus t suffer from the dis­

small increase, then that,

further caus e for celebration

that industrialization has brought with it an extension of life

expectancy (and unfortunately the unavoidable increase in the risk of cancer which accompanies old age). What's more,

undisputed cancer clusters surrounding virtually every nuclear

it is, rather, natural foods like

blue cheese, mushroom s an d brazil nuts whic h are responsible.

A close look, however, at wha t fe w traditional, pre-indus-

trial societies exist paints a very different picture. F e w studies

have been carried out, but those that have sho w almost a


my arrival in Gabon,

I was

astonished to encounter

no case of cancer'


Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer,

the health of traditional people. A s such, funding

for research

of that nature, whic h actually work s to undermine

the colossal

medical establishment, and indeed our path to 'progress' itself, is hard to com e by, if at all. Nevertheless, one such, by n o mean s unique study, mostly, but not only, of North American Eskimos, w a s put together by Vilhjalmur Stefansson in 1960, entitled Cancer: Disease of Civilization?' In the preface, Ren é Dubos , the late Professor of Microbiology at Rockefeller

Institute for Medica l Research, points out that "history show s that each type of civilization, like each social group and each

w a y of life, has diseases whic h are peculiar to it

broad survey", he continues, "there emerge s the impression

that certain diseases such as dental caries, arteriosclerosis, and cancers are so uncommo n amon g certain primitive people as to

Fro m this

- at least as long as nothing is change d in the

ancestral way s of life." In 1915, the Prudential Insurance compan y of Americ a pub­ lished an 846-page report o n Cancer, entitled, The Mortality from Cancer Throughout the World. 2 Its author w a s Frederick L Hoffman , chairman of the committee o n statistics of the America n Society for the Control o f Cancer. Base d o n thousands

remain unnoticed

ease. And , if w e have experienced a

far fro m bein g lamented , is simpl y

powe r plant are coincidental

The Ecologist, Vol. 28, No . 2, March/April 1998



"Hello! we can't be far from civilisation. »

of separate reports an d all the available data, on e o f his conclu- the benign han d of moder n civilization to scrape the m from

I sions was that "the rarity of cancer amon g native ma n suggests their muck , an d build for the m a worth y existence.

I that the disease is primarily induced

b y the conditions an d meth - In 1836, however, such wa s the collective opinion amon g

ods of living which typify our moder n civilization." H e goes o n travelling me n of medicine, that Sir Georg e Back, 6 accompany-

to explain that " a large numbe r of medical missionaries and ing the famou s Dr. Richard Kin g o n an Arctic expedition, wa s

other trained medical observers living for years amon g native


mor e substantial basis of fact regarding the frequency o f occur- shared b y mos t professionals an d explorers o f the time, who ,

rence of malignant disease amon g the so-called uncivilized

races, if cancer were me t with amon g the m to anything like the accustomed to viewing traditional people, living traditional lives

degree commo n to practically all civilized countries"

the contrary," h e continues, "the negative evidence is convincing

greatly surprised "to learn ho w muc h disease ha[d] spread

throughout the world, woul d long ag o hav e provided a


through this part o f the country." Hi s surprise woul d have bee n

from virtually every medical report in circulation, had becom e

to as being superior in health b y man y measure s to the 'white man' .

" O n m y arrival in Gabon , in 1913," wrote Nobel laureate

I that, in the opinion of qualified medical observers, cancer is

I exceptionally rare amon g the primitive peoples


Albert Schweitzer, 7 "I wa s astonished to encounter n o case of


I can not, of course, say

positively that there wa s n o

H e later quotes in the sam e report fro m a boo k b y Dr. Charles cancer at all, but like other frontier doctors, I can only say that

Powell, 3 that "there can be lit-

tle doubt that the various

influences grouped under the

title of civilization play a part

in producing a tendency to

cancer", and from Dr. W S

Bainbridge's 4 "outstanding

contribution", The Cancer

Problem, that, "with changed


increase in susceptibility to cancerous disease

bility becoming more marked as civilization develops: in other

words as environment changes."

if any cases existed they must

have been quite rare."

Dr. Stanislas Tanchou, 8 in

"Cancer is unquestionably very rare in

native races." — Frederick L Hoffman,

Chairman of the committee o n statistics of the American Society for the Control of Cancer.

this suscepti-

his address to the Academ y of

Sciences in 1843 told of a Dr.

Bac , surgeon-in-chief o f the

Second African Regiment,

w h o had never once witnessed

a case of cancer in Senegal,

where he had been practising

there cam e an

medicin e for six years. H e told also o f a M . Baudens , surgeon-

in-chief at Val-de-Grace, wh o practised medicine for eight years

in Algiers, coming across only tw o cases of cancer, and of a Dr.

Puzin who , of 10,000 people

only one case of cancer, that of a woman' s breast.

In 1914, Livingston French Jones wrote in A Study of the

Thlingets of Alaska that "While certain diseases have always

"Wha t

are the conditions peculiar to civilized peoples, an d

he allegedly examined, discovered

absent from primitive races, whic h are associated with its

prevalence an d increase in the former, an d its almost entire

absence or relative infrequency in the latter?" he asks.

"Cancer is unquestionably very rare in native races." 5

Since then, the establishment has undergone a dramatic

/be e n foun d amon g the Thlingets, others that no w afflict the m


are of recent introduction. Tumours , cancers and toothache

change, an d in the face o f clear evidence, it has becom e increas- were

ingly unfashionable, if not unacceptable, to suggest anything

other than that traditional people lived, until the arrival of mod Incidence - among the Eskimos of Labrador, Dr. Samuel King

ern 'civilization', in conditions o f extreme squalor, waiting for

unknow n to them until within recent years." 9

In 1925, under the title, Health Conditions and Disease

Hutton wrote that, "som e diseases commo n in Europe have


com e under m y notice during a prolonged an d careful sur-

ve y o f the health of the Eskimos . O f these diseases, the mos t

striking is cancer." 10


'Progress' to Cancer

"Like practically all writers [emphasis mine ] o n the Labrador

of the last hundred years," says Stefansson with obvious con-

fidence in his underlying theme," "[Sir Wilfred] Grenfell is

worried b y the inroads of Europea n disease amon g the native

In 1927, Associate Editor of Ne w York City journal,

Cancer, Dr. J Lyma n Bulkley contributed an article, Cancer

Among Primitive Tribes, to that journal, in which he wrote that population. 'The sicknesses of the coast are not indigenous

his "observations o n the subject wer e gathered during a

sojourn of about twelve

tribes of Alaskan natives, during which time he never discov- medical missionaries all looked for cancer, an d they never

ered amon g the m a single true case of carcinosis

Contact with white me n has blotted

them out like chalk from


years amon g several o f the different


blackboard.' 20 Fro m east to west," adds Stefansson, "

[I] feel that to found it amon g the 'primitive', though they did find it amon g

to civilization and all its influences may ma y be attributed in a

the increase in frequency o f malignancy

very large measure

'the 'modernized.'

Whe n in 1934, a U S Treasury's Public Health report 21 was

amon g primitive races.""

carried out, in which those regions and groups most and least

prone to cancer were surveyed, it emerged, as one would

expect from all we've heard, that incidence of cancer rose

In 1939, writing o f his interview

with Joseph Herma n

Romig , Alaska's "most famou s doctor", Dr. Preston A Price

claims that"

with these people he ha d

never seen a case of malig-

nant disease amon g the truly

primitive Eskimo s and

Indians, although it fre-

in his [Dr. Romig's ] thirty-six years of contact directly in parallel with Western industrial contact.

From east to west, the medical missionaries all looked for cancer, and they never found it among the 'primitive', though they did find it among the 'modernized'. — Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Interestingly too, in 1970, a

study revealed that African

American s were ten times

mor e likely then to contract

cancer than were rural

Africans living in Africa. 22

Roald Amundsen , author


The Northwest Passage™

wrote in 190 8 that: "During


three-year voyag e o f the Gjo a

w e

cam e in contact with ten

w e had goo d opportunities of


occurs whe n they

becom e

modernized." 11

In 1958, Dr. L A White

wrote in a letter to Stefansson

that "

years since I practised in

Alaska. I wa s at Unalaska [Aleutian Islands] from 1934 until different Eskimo tribes in all, and

it has been almost 17

1948, having previously spent 17 month s at Metlakatla [Alaska observing the influence o f civilization upo n them, as w e were

Panhandle], then several month s in 1939 at Klawoc k

[Panhandle]: finally one and a half years at Bethel [Lower

able to compare those Eskimos wh o had com e in contact with

civilization with those wh o had not. An d I must state it as m y

Kuskokwim] . M y wor k led m e to these conclusions: (1) hyper- ( firm conviction that the latter, the Eskimo s living absolutely iso-

tension an d arteriosclerotic diseases wer e practically

nonexistent amon g native peoples; (2) diabetes wa s extremely healthiest,

rare; (3) malignant disease wa s extremely rare - in fact I ha d I M y sincerest wishes for our friends the Nechilli Eskimo s is, that

only one.proven case (Bethel, 1940). I sa w n o strokes nor coro- civilization ma y never reach them."

nary heart disease

lated fro m

civilization of any kind, are undoubtedly the happiest,

most honorable and most contented amon g them



George Leavitt, another ma n of medicine, a 'stopgap' ship's

T h e story it seems is very muc h the sam e wherever our

doctor, wa s fascinated by

ing with Eskimos. Before the measles epidemic o f 1900, he

cancer an d spent man y years work-

once respected, no w dissident thinkers cared to look. Sir

Robert McCarrison, a surgeon in the Indian Health Service

observe d " a total absenc e o f all disease s durin g the tim e I

spent in the Hunz a valley" [seven years] "

of m y association with these peoples, I never sa w a case

cancer". 14 Dr. Eugene Payne,

w e are told, "wh o examine d

approximately 60,000 indi-

viduals during a quarter of a

century in certain parts of

Brazil and Ecuador, found n o

evidence of cancer." 15 Dr.

Hoffma n again speaks of the

Indians of Bolivia, "amon g

who m I wa s unable to trace a single authentic case of malig- (of California)" b y the National Academ y of Sciences of the

nant disease. All of the physicians who m I interviewed o n the U S , wa s one wh o fully

subject were emphatically of the opinion that cancer of the

breast amon g Indian wome n wa s never me t with." 16 Again,

writing of the Hunzas , Dr. Allen E Bani k an d René e Taylor

describe "their freedom from a variety of diseases and physi- inhabitants of England", he added "to discover that their

cal ailments" as "remarkable

complaints an d man y of the commo n childhood diseases

unknow n amon g them." 11 And , again of the Eskimos , Dr.

George Plumme r How e believed strongly, that even if som e

cancers were going undetected,

are remarkable increase in the death rate fro m this disease." 23

woul d have been in contact with u p to 50,000 people. After

years of questioning frontier doctors, an d looking for a cancer

Durin g the period victim amon g those with who m he wa s in contact, he eventu-


ally gave up, "because he wa s so sure b y then that, except

amon g civilized Eskimos, n o


cancers woul d be found

in the Arctic." 24

A belief that cancer is very

muc h the product of

moder -

nity wa s generalized

in the

late eighteen hundreds. Dr.

John L e Conte, described as

the "Father of the university

shared this view, so muc h so that, jok-

"My sincerest wishes for our friends the Nechilli Eskimos is, that civilization may never reach them." — Roald Amundsen

ingly he explained that Paris, suffering four times as man y

cancers at that time as London , mus t be four times mor e civi-

lized. "

it ma y be to som e extent consolatory to the

1867, indicate a very

In the July 1927 issue of Cancer, Dr. William Ha y points out


tribes living naturally will sho w a complete absence of

cancer till mixture with mor e civilized ma n corrupts the natu-

ralness of habit; and just as these habits conform to those

civilizations, even so does cancer begin to sho w its head

"Civilization," is, according to Dr. Berglas, "in terms of

Cancer , heart attacks, vascular recent mortuary records, from 1860 to

during years of wor k and

thousands of check-ups, surely "external cancers could not

possibly exist in the inspected regions for decades without

being recognized or without resulting in deaths." 18


cancer, a juggernaut that cannot be stopped." Quoting Dr. G

Schenk , Berglas " adds , "It is the nature an d essenc e o f indus -

trialcivijization to be toxic in every sense

tnTgn m prospect that the advanc e o f cancer an d o f civiliza-

tion parallel each other."

The Health and Integrity of Traditional Society

If w e are to question the dangerou s path w e are treading, whic 'nor h kno w anything of phlebotomy; a physician could not expect

indeed w e must , for obviou s reasons, then w e mus t also ques -

tion the assumptions

believe in the notion o f linear, unendin g 'progress', as w e are

taught to from an early age, then clearly w e must equally dis-

believe in the integrity o f the past. However , the distorted


of historic huma n misery and poor health that is so often headaches and rheumatism, while dyspepsia, scrofula, ear disease

presented to us, simpl y doe s no t bear u p to the facts, figures an and d dysentery

accounts that have been

hande d dow n to us. However ,

it is important again to remem -

ber that very few traditional

societies have manage d to

withstand the Western indus-

trial juggernaut. O f the few

writings o n traditional health

that w e can rely on, it is not

surprising that the vast major-

ity would have been carried

out man y

societies still existed.

lives,' wrot e Martin , anothe r studen t o f the St. Kilda n experience ,

diseases. 'They never had a potion or physic given them in their

possibility of 'famine' are hardly worthy of notice," wrote Mr .

MacDiarmi d in the nineteenth century. 33

Maclean's ow n research revealed that

"in the days whe n they

We are faced with

lived in almost complete isolation fro m the rest of the world the

St. Kildans ha d bee n

a strong an d healthy race afflicted b y fe w

his bread in this commonwealth.'

Bu t as contact with civiliza-

whic h justify such a path. An d if w e are to tion increased, the health o f the islanders declined. The y becam e

susceptible to diseases previously unknow n in St. Kilda an d b y

the 20th

century a general debilitating weaknes s ha d set in. The y

suffered mor e

and mor e frequently from colds, coughs,

soon becam e commo n complaints

Contemporary opinion put the

ill-health o f the St. Kildans

While breast cancer today afflicts one in eight women in the US, the Canadian Medical Association, "In spite of strenuous efforts, [was] unable to discover one authenticated case of Eskimo breast malignancy."

dow n to their peculiar diet and

hard wa y of life, but it failed to

take into account that the diet

an d lifestyle o f the islanders

ha d changed little over the cen-

turies." 34

T h e culture an d way s of the

St. Kildans wer e wholl y

unique, the story of their

demise is sadly not. Th e sam e

has been documente d else-

years ago, whe n such

Th e distant Hebridea n island o f St. Kild a is on e suc h soci- where, in Ireland, where Hug h Brody 35 describes a small tow n

ety whic h wa s heavily documente d b y a numbe r o f writers


have since been written about its sad demise, from a society of of Alto, where according to Robi n Jenkins, 36 since a road link-

self-sufficiency, custom, arts and

guage and unique cliff-based culture, to one of moral an d

eventual physical poverty, and consequent collapse.

in whic h the local nurse claims that she dispenses "mor e anti-

depressants than headache tablets", or the Portuguese village

the global econom y wa s built in 1951, "mos t of the

in fact [become] alcoholics," an d mor e recently

the eighteenth century until its collapse in 1930. Book s

plenty, its ow n religion, lan- ing it to



Ladakh , in the Himalayas, wher e the onc e often remarked-

" A s long as St. Kild a remaine d remot e fro m the world, "

upo n health of individuals has

been o n drastic decline since

Indian economy , whic h in tu m


but in the 19th century the island wa s 'discovered' b y mis -

Charles Maclean, "its society wa s viable, even Utopian; they too wer e linked u p to the

has becom e ever mor e absorbed

T h e wor k of Professor Neel 38

Ironically, while it is encouraged and wholly accepted that we idealise and romanticize a societal model which has utterly failed us on so many counts, it is totally unacceptable, indeed politically incorrect to praise the only model for society which has proven a success.

into the global economy. 37

reinforced this view: "I find it

to see in recent

by our

sionaries, do-gooders an d tourists, wh o under the impression

that they wer e bringing to St.

Kilda the benefits of civiliza-

tion brought money , disease

and despotism. Unable to

withstand the effects of

increased contact with the

mainland and 'civilization',

the St. Kilda n culture gradu-

ally disintegrated, the

population dwindled and in

increasingly difficult," he wrote

in 1970, "

reproductive history o f the civi-

lized world a greater respect for


than wa s manifested

remote 'primitive' ancestors

T h e Xavant e are in general, in

excellent physical condition,

an d w e have similar unpub-

lished data o n the Yanomam a

the quality of huma n

193 0 the fe w remaining

islanders asked to be evacu-

ated because they could n o

longer support themselves." 28

and Makiritare."

In 1948, Dr. Romig 39

described a "

general impres-

Before corruption set in, the general health o f St. Kildan s sion of average goo d health and considerable longevity"

wa s held in aw e b y all wh o visited. On e of the early visitors. presented b y the Eskimos. "O n [their] diet the people wer e

Dr. MacCulloch, 2 " acknowledge d "the goo d physique of the

males", who , he said, "were well-looking, and appeared, as

they indeed are, well fed;

cumstances, or rather wealth." George Seton, 30 in 1877, wrote mos t part they were a happy, carefree people

that "the remarkably healthy look of the children in arm s wa s regret," he added, "that w e see the slow passing of these onc e

the subject o f universal comment. " H e quotes a Mr . Wilson 3 '

w h o described the me n as strong, handsome , an d "with bright

eyes, and an expression of great intelligence," and Rear

Admiral Otter, 32 whos e experience o n the Island led hi m to

believe that "those that survive infancy gro w u p strong,

healthy me n an d women. " " ludicrous insinuations as to the in regular contact with traditional people, before their demise.

strong an d did not get scurvy

they did not have gastric ulcer,

cancer, diabetes, malaria, or typhoid fever, or the commo n dis-

an d bearing the mark s of easy cir- eases of childhood know n so well amon g the whites. For the

It is with

hardy people


Som e Doubts

While, today, such view s are conveniently dismissed as

"unscientific", they were readily accepted

b y those wh o were

The Ecologist, Vol. 28, No. 2, March/April 1998




-. "M'jh )'— k "

#™« «mm


to detect.

North Hospital, wrote,

nursing in the hospital,

lump s

An d



Mrs . Griest, 43


know ,


head nurse

in all

of Farth

17 years


w e

m y

wome n with

foun d any

in their


T h e Canadian Medical Association Journal in 1956 printed

a n article

by three authors,


Lawson , Saunders and


Cowen, 44 in

whic h it is


out that

"for the



I r '» ~

/, vA





w e

Canadian eastern Arctic] from breast cancer and cystic disea

In spite

one authenticated case of Eskim o





the relative

w e

freedom of


Eskimos [


of strenuous efforts,


unable to

breast malignancy."



cer is

seems fairly indisputable that


extremely rare if




in this

at all.

a disease




(which it certainly is


And , if



n o


too fails



wh y traditional people have traditi


bee n free

fro m the disease.

For, contrary to

wha t

w e

told, the life expectancy

of traditional people


be highe


ours*- if it is


fro m




ten rather


Indeed, as

Ren é

Dubos 45 has explained, "The increase

life expectancy is almost exclusively the result

o f

the virtu



be little

doubt that the various influences



elimination of mortality in the

the title


youn g age groups." Rather,

civilization play






tendency to cancer."











mixture with mor e civilized


show its

ma n corrupts the naturalness



these habits


conform to those civilizations,



Dr William


In those

men t were naturally doubtful.

superintendent Peacock, 40


occurred amon g Eskimos. "

of death

however, revealed that


days too,


however , various

wh o


On e


cam e

Labrador, in

fro m cancer

o f


D r


adds, this so-called increase in life expectancy often "repre-

sents merely prolongation of survival time through complex

and costly medical procedures

been called medicated survival."

With our moder n medicine



It corresponds to



w e

manage d to reduce

childhood mortality, but in the process,

w e


created i

•conditions for the growt h o f countless diseases,

both dege




w e


it is

an d infectious. After the

the industrialized

ag e

worl d will

o f

ten, it is



reach old

age safely,

amon g traditional people. What's

more, as

a great


people will testify, the pre-death vegetative state, which



world, is

Banik explains, "Like t


years in the industrialized



E .

unknow n trad

tionally. Rather, as




shay', all


Hunzakuts' bodily organs

see m




expire at

one time.

On e

da y


oldster is there;



he is

gone." 46


"The y live long,


remain youthful in

min d

and body

they die."

Th e Hunzas,

amon g

whom ,

w e

have already see

"cancer is

unknown, "

famou s

abov e all

for their remarkable

longevity, "


the healthiest, longest-lived people in the worl

Eskimos. Dr. Simpson, 48 descr

today live







an d

happiness to the

wa s

"a healthy

happy people of apparently high


Dr. Greist 49 reaffirmed this


Eskim o

o f

view in

Nort h

the far


wa s




very great age."

Th e

same has

been told,

Cog i Indians

o f

Colombi a b y

Ala n Ereira. 50

Willful Amnesia



chang e its

On e obvious

boo k

view s

o n

o n


the issu

answer is given

ne w


cancer till


12 0 years




T h e

does cancer

begin to




sam e

untold centuries

lived to

H e

member s o f the establish-



ma n

wa s


"[W]he n I



1957 wrote that

wa s

o n




wen t


told that

Sudden Change



S o

wh y did the establishment

amon g the Eskimos. Further research, traditional people and cancer?

describe six


six, all

had lived 'civilized' Dr.

Samue l

Epstein 5 '

lives "


me n

wh o



stomach cancer

whos e "Cancer respec- treatment is big business, with multi-billion dollar

tive wives died


wom b cancer;






annual of brothers cancer drug sales.

Cancer prevention is very

muc h

w h o

cancer wa s indeed "environmental in


of throat cancer."

Peacock later

cam e



believe profitable, that at least


big business." In other




try develope d aroun d the problem ,

whic h required

a belief

Still, however, current thinking is


cancer is

jrt prevention


o n


wa s



option, i.e.



wa s


increase, an d absurd denials

an d lies


the sort

published in

DKinevitable and natural.


current newspaper headlines are increasingly forthcoming.


today, for example , afflicts

there has been virtually

Bu t


e fundamentally perhaps, the science itself whic h

wa s

flawed. In

1932, a disillusioned


"more than thirty years

has lived

and died; labora

ho w

can it



anyone's logic, that while breast cancer

gre w

on e



wome n




Cop e

n o


of it

around the issue


John US,

amon g traditional whole people generation has

out that

been born,

living traditional lives?

W e

hear that


10,000 patients ries seen hav e

bee n built

in all


of the civilized world;



by Dr. Puzin in Senegal, 42 only one

wa s



suffer thousands from of scientists hav e

bee n devoted


the quest,


breast cancer, which


w e


note, is


a difficult

whole cancer libraries of magazines, articles

Th e Ecologist, Vol.



books testify to

No. 2, March/April




patience, industry an d ability wit h whic h this pursuit ha s bee n


worke r ca n point to anythin g that ca n b y an y stretch o f the

imagination b e termed a solution to the proble m whic h the

researchers set out s o confidently to answer .

an d yet not eve n the mos t sanguine research

"Experience has prove d that those wh o hav e spent a goo d

If w e are to deal wit h this all-consumin g an d terrifying dis-

ease whic h seem s to affect ever y on e o f us directly or

indirectly, then w e mus t clearly determin e wha t are the condi-

tions in whic h it doe s not exist. Currently, ou r scientists d o the

exact opposite, spending millions o n studying the process o f

mutation , the uncontrolled division o f cells, observin g cancer-

man y years o f their lives in experimenta l research hav e

acquired mode s of thought an d habits o f

hou s growt h o n the backs o f millions o f doome d

which, to say ''animals. Bu t for wha t purpose? A s Sa m Epstein has pointed

an d suffering

workin g

the least, d o not mak e the m safe judge s o f the results o f

wide r

out, ver y little ha s bee n achieve d throug h suc h

a process. An d

method s o f inquiry. Th e very precision an d exactitude o f


d o we ' really wan t to tocus o n accommodatin g

wha t is a n

whic h are o f so muc h value in

restricted circumstances o f the

of view, to a lingering over minutiae, whic h mus t need s unfit

intensive research, adde d to the

laboratory, lead to a narrownes s

inherently unhealthy process? Surely, it woul d mak e mor e

sense to study the context in whic h those wh o see m never to

hav e bee n plague d b y cancer onc e lived.

those so engage d fro m

taking an y part in form s o f inquiry for

Ironically, whil e it is encourage d

an d

wholl y accepte d that

whic h broad, spacious view s are essential." 52

w e idealize an d romanticize, both to

ou r

doubting selves an d

In 1957, the famou s Dr. Berglas wa s o f

the sam e mind :

mor e significantly to newl y developin g countries, a societal

mode l whic h ha s utterly failed u s o n s o man y count s - it is

totally unacceptable , indee d politically incorrect to

onl y mode l for society whic h ha s prove n a succes s - tradi-

"Ove r the years, cancer research ha s becom e the domai n o f

specialists in various fields. Despit e the outstandin g contribu-

tions o f these scientists, w e

farther awa y fro m ou r goal, the curin g o f cancer. Thi s special- tional, pre-industrial society. Is it not od d that the only

ized work , an d the knowledg e gaine d throug h study o f the

individual processes, has ha d the peculiar result o f becomin g

a n obstacle to the study o f the whole" 53

praise the

hav e bee n getting farther an d

platfor m o n whic h it

ditional culture is o n tourist brochure s an d catalogues doin g s o

in order to commercializ e an d ultimately sell that viability?

is acceptable to extol the viability o f tra-


1. Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Cancer: Disease of Civilization? A n anthropological

and Historical Study. Hill and Wang, Ne w York, 1960.

2. D r Frederick L . Hoffman , Th e Mortality fro m Cance r Throughou t the

World.The Prudential Press, 1915. Cited by Stefansson.

3. Dr Charles Powell, The Pathology of Cancer. Manchester 1908. Cited by


Sacramento 1888.

26. D r William Hay, Cancer, a Disease of Either Election or Ignorance. Published

in 'Cancer' 1927. Cited by Stefansson.

27. D r Alexander Berglas, Cancer: Nature, Cause and Cure. Paris 1957. Cited by Stefansson.

28. Charles Maclean, Island o n the Edg e of the World, Utopian St Kilda and its

4. Dr William Seaman Bainbridge, The Cancer Problem. Ne w York, 1914. Cited


by Stefansson.

29. Dr MacCulloch, quoted by George Seton, Saint Kilda: Past and Present, 1877

30. George Seton, Saint Kilda: Past and Present, 1877

5. Vilhjaltruir Stefansson, Op. cit. 1.

6. Admiral Sir George Back, Narrative o f the Arctic Lan d Expedition. London , 31. M r Wilson, quoted by George Seton, Saint Kilda Past and Present, 1877

1836. Cited by Stefansson.


Rear Admiral Otter, quoted by George Seton, Saint Kilda Past and Present,

7. Dr Albert Schweitzer, Preface to Cancer: Nature, Cause and Cure, by Dr


Alexander Berglas. Paris, 1957. Cited by Stefansson.


M r MacDiarmid, quoted by George Seton, Saint Kilda Past and Present,

8. D r Stanislas Tanchou, Memoi r o n the Frequency of Cancer:

a n address to the


Academy of Sciences, 1843. Cited by Stefansson.


Charles Maclean, Island o n the Edg e of the World, Utopian St Kilda and its

9. Reverend Livingston French Jones, A Study of the Thlingets of Alaska. Ne w

Passing, P. 121.

York, 1914. Cited by Stefansson.

10. D r Samue l Kin g Hutton, Amon g the Eskimo s of Labrador. Londo n and

Philadelphia 1912. Cited by Stefansson.

11. D r J. Lyma n Bulkley, Cancer Amon g Primitive Tribes. Ne w Yor k City

Journal, Cancer, 1927. Cited by Stefansson.

35. Hug h Brody. Inishkillane, Chang e and Decline in the Wes t of Ireland, plO O

36. Robi n Jenkins, Th e Roa d to Alto, A n Account of Peasants, Capitalists and the Soil in the Mountains of Southern Portugal, Pluto Press 1979, London, pl21

37. Helena Norberg Hodge, Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. 1991

38. Professor James V. Neel, Lessons from a Primitive People. Science, Vol. 170,

12. D r Joseph Herma n Romig , Interview with D r Westo n A . Price: Nutrition an d

No.3960, 20 November 1970.

Physical Degeneration. London and Ne w York, 1939. Cited by Stgfansson.

13. Personal correspondence between D r L.A . Whit e an d Stefansson. 1958.

14. Majo r General Sir Robert McCarrison, Faulty Foo d in Relation to Gastro-

intestinal Disorder. Journal of the America n Medical Association. Chicago,

39. D r Joseph Herma n Romig , Private correspondence with Stefansson.

40. Superintendent F.W. Peacock, Som e Psychological Aspects of the Impact of the Whit e Ma n Upo n the Labrador Eskimo . Labrador 1947. Cited by



41. Dr Sa m Epstein, The Breast Cancer Prevention Programme. 1997.

15. Exampl e given b y D r Alexander Berglas, Cancer: Nature, Caus e an d Cure. 42. Exampl e cited by Tanchou, Memoi r o n the Frequency of Cancer, addressed to

the Academ y of Sciences, 1843. Cited by Stefansson.

16. D r Frederick L . Hoffman , Cancer an d Civilization: Speech to Belgian National Cancer Congress at Brussels 1923. Cited by Stefansson.

17. D r Allen Banik and René e Taylor, Hunz a Land . California 1960.

18. D r Georg e Plumme r Howe , Private Medica l Note s o n Northern Alaska. Cited 45. René Dubos, Man , Medicine and Environment. 1968.



19. Sir Wilfred Grenfell MD , Labrado r Th e Country an d the People. Londo n an d

Paris 1957. Cited by Stefansson.

by Stefansson.

43. Private correspondence with Stefansson.

44. Drs Lawson, Cowe n and Saunderson, Breast Cancer and Heptaldehyde, The

Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1956. Cited by Stefansson.

Dr Allen Banik and Renée Taylor, Hunza Land. California, 1960. Ibid.

N e w York, 1909. Cited by


48. D r Joh n Simpson , Observations o n the Western Eskimo , London , 1855. Cited


by Stefansson.

21. F.S. Fellows, U.S. Treasury Public Health Report, Marc h 2nd 1934.

49. Seventeen"Years Amon g the Eskimos , date

D r Henr y Greist,

unknown . Cited

Mortality in the Native Races of the Territory of Alaska, with special

by Stefansson.

reference to tuberculosis.

50. Alan Ereira, The Elder Brother.

22. John Powles, Th e Medicine of Industrial Man . The Ecologist, 1972, Vol.2, 51. Dr Sa m Epstein, The Breast Cancer Prevention Programme, 1997.

No . 10.

52. Dr John Cope, Cancer: Civilization and Degeneration. London 1932. Cited by Stefansson.

53. Dr Alexander Berglas, Cancer: Nature, Cause and Cure. Paris 1957. Cited by Stefansson.

23. Roald Amundsen, The Northwest Passage. Londo n and Ne w York,

24. George B. Leavitt, Personal Correspondence with Stefansson.

25. D r John L e Conte, Th e Vital Statistics an d the True Coefficient of Mortality, Illustrated b y Cancer. Th e Tenth Biennial Report of the State of California,


The Ecologist, Vol. 28, No. 2, March/April 1998

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