This is billed as the most comprehensive anti-cancer book available, published by CANCERactive, a UK Registered Charity founded by the author, Chris Woollams. Their agreed aims are to inform and support cancer patients and to provide research into treatments.
Having read the book, I can tell you that it does the very opposite of this. It misinforms, misleads and gives dangerously bad advice. It recommends unmanageably restrictive diet and lifestyle choices. It undermines medical professionals and leading cancer charities, spreading fear and mistrust. It encourages cancer patients to devote precious time, money and energy to dubious treatments known to do more harm than good. Woollams provides no research whatsoever into treatments, but instead appears to simply cherry pick studies, interpreting them to suit his arguments. He gives no references, or indeed any details of these, making it impossible to learn anything from his ‘research’.
Prevention and causes of cancer
Cancer Research UK advise that three main ways to reduce the risk of cancer are avoiding smoking, eating healthily and limiting exposure to the sun. They have published clear, concise leaflets giving sensible, straightforward advice on healthy lifestyles and cancer prevention.
In contrast, Chris Woollams has written hundreds of pages of overblown, misleading and alarmist rubbish.
He believes the four main causes of cancer are poor diet, toxins, parasites and mental state. He thinks eating junk has a significant effect of the acidity of your whole body, pointing out that cancer patients have acid bodies. He writes with apparent authority that ‘lump or bump’ cancers are driven by oestrogen and that cancers of the blood or lymph are driven by chemical toxins. He claims that many people may be unknowing carriers of parasites, yeasts and viruses and advises we consult homeopaths with VEGA machines in order to get a diagnosis. He suggests that predominantly female ‘practical’ worriers develop a weakness in the second chakra which seems to be associated with a greater risk of colon cancer.
Woollams advises us to beware of mobile phones and WiFi. He believes you shouldn’t have a phone or computer in your bedroom. You shouldn’t sleep between lights (whether they are on or off). You shouldn’t live near pylons, satellite dishes, masts, factories, garage forecourts or main roads. You should avoid many plastics, toiletries and household cleaning products. You should avoid all cow’s dairy (but take multi-strain probiotics daily). You should avoid all refined and processed foods and all fats and oils (except olive oil). You should drink at least four cups of green tea a day and eat copious amounts of broccoli (steamed, not microwaved, or it loses its aura). You should only drink filtered water or mineral water and only from glass bottles. You should use ‘natural supplements’, boost your herbal intake and consider using sodium bicarbonate to keep the body alkaline. You should visit a cranial osteopath or acupuncturist once every three months, free your brain and learn to meditate. You should not put up with things that make you unhappy or depressed.
Woollams has such confidence in his own eccentric beliefs that he accuses the World Health Organisation of putting out misleading information for failing to focus on mental attitude as a cause of cancer. He accuses “the leading UK charity” of spreading mythology on colon cancer. He writes that respected cancer bodies and charities have been talking complete rubbish when it comes to the effect of sunshine as a cause of melanoma, that four out of five sun creams are toxic and could increase the risk of cancer, while also claiming that sun exposure can reduce levels of skin cancers.
It is irresponsible, dangerous nonsense that will confuse and frighten people.
It gets worse. Woollams advises patients to question everything their doctors tell them, to check everything they are told, to go on the internet. He spreads fear and doubt, while pointing the way to quackery.
Woollams gives lists of questions you should ask about your treatments and highlights risks and side effects associated with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He advises people to ask oncologists for evidence if they recommend some treatments and dismiss others. This scepticism does not extend to alternative treatments.
He advises that you should not rush into anything; that it is not all urgent. He believes that surgery may cause the cancer to spread and suggests that mastectomies may cause spread and relapse. He suggests that if you have breast cancer, you should visit a homeopath to determine if chlamydia is involved, assuring readers that homeopaths will have nosodes to help eradicate it. He mentions a nurse who refused chemotherapy for liver cancer and instead consulted a nutritionist who told her she had a bad yeast infection and was cured with anti-fungal drugs. According to Woollams, the unnamed nurse then persuaded doctors on a child leukaemia ward to give the same treatment to the patients there.
Woollams gives ringing endorsements of seemingly each and every alternative cancer treatment, with numerous errors, omissions and misunderstandings along the way, while all the time undermining experts. He recommends mistletoe injections to improve the success of radiotherapy and to clear away ‘toxic debris’. He notes that oncologists advise against high doses of antioxidant supplements during conventional treatment but then goes on to recommend them anyway. He believes that iridology, reflexology and VEGA testing are valid diagnostic techniques.
Cancer patients are advised to follow an alkaline diet and to consider a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in warm water every morning. They are recommended an exhaustive list of supplements including medicinal mushrooms, astragalus, curcumin and vitamin D but are advised to check any drug proposed by oncologists on the internet.
Alternative cancer treatments recommended by Woollams include juice fasting, coffee enemas, ketogenic diets, Gerson Therapy, the Gonzalez diet and pancreatic enzymes, intravenous vitamin C and antineoplastons.
Expensive, unproven and harmful treatments which almost certainly do more harm than good but which people will cling to with false hope.
Errors, contradiction and spin
The book is riddled with mistakes and misunderstandings. To give an example, Woollams writes that every current patient of Dr Burzynski is part of a phase III clinical trial. In fact many Burzynski patients are not in trials at all, and no phase III trial has ever begun.
Like Burzynski apologists, Woollams implies that his critics have hidden motives and are not to be trusted. He writes that there are people who have tried to silence him but their agenda is obvious. He adds that such people “may write blogs usually detailing errors, which are, in fact, nonsense”. He does not name any of these individuals, nor does he address any of the issues raised by bloggers (me, for example, here).
Woollams is not qualified to give medical advice, yet seems to consider himself better qualified than doctors and leading cancer charities.
The book opens with an Important Notice, pointing out:
The author is neither a fully qualified health practitioner nor a doctor of medicine, and so is not qualified to give any advice on medical matters. Cancer (and its related illnesses) is a very serious and very individual disease. Readers must consult with experts and specialists in the appropriate medical field before taking, or refraining from taking any action.
Yet Woollams gives medical advice while sneering at doctors. He suggests that experts and specialists don’t know the facts and reputable cancer charities are actively covering up the truth because of vested interests. People are “dying of ignorance”.
According to the blurb, Woollams read biochemistry at Oxford University, where he specialised in cancer research – yet his writing demonstrates an almost total lack of knowledge or comprehension of even the very basics. His scientific illiteracy is evident on every page, from minor things like abbreviating grams to “gms”, to the kind of embarrassing misunderstandings and mistakes typical of quacks: the idea that chlorophyll oxygenates the blood; that wild animals don’t get cancer; that you need to ‘alkalise’ for good health; that the stomach needs to be alkaline to digest carbohydrate… Woollams doesn’t even seem to know what a carbohydrate is. He recommends a low carbohydrate diet then later suggests polysaccharides may play a positive role in medicine and lists several foods in which polysaccharides can be found. He also stresses several times that glucose “feeds cancer cells” without seeming to grasp that it feeds the other cells too.
Having looked at the CANCERactive website and having written about Woollams before, I did not have high expectations of this book. But it is far worse than I could have imagined.
Chris Woollams, Golden Duck nominee Josephine Jones 18/09/13
Bad advice from CANCERactive Josephine Jones 11/07/13
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