(Hippokrates, Zeitschrift fur Praktische Heilkunde).
DURING the last few decades on enormous amount of work and thought has been employed in the study of cancer. Men of the greatest ability have devoted their time to it and unlimited means have been applied to its investigation. The result of their labours is disappointing. The enigma of cancer is as baffling as it has been. Research in accordance with present methods will scarcely lead to any advance of knowledge. Why? Because cancer cells propagated in the laboratory are totally different from cancer cells found in human beings.
Cancers experimentally produced in animals are totally different from the spontaneous cancers found in human beings. We are able to cause the disappearance of artificial cancers produced in animals, but we fail if we apply the methods employed upon humans. The spontaneous cure of cancer in animals is frequent, but it is exceedingly rare in men.
Scientists should certainly continue studying cancer in the laboratories. Their researches may produce valuable knowledge. However, we must not disguise to ourselves the fact that so far nothing practically useful has been discovered by the laboratories.
We doctors must not sit still and wait until the laboratories have discovered some useful treatment. Every physician and practitioner should help in the study of the cancer problem. More is to be expected from practical study at the bedside than from laboratory research.
Surgery and treatment by radium and X-rays are our most important weapons in fighting cancer. However, the impressive statistics relating to a high percentage of cures effected by surgical means must not deceive us. My own calculations and those of the well-known surgeon Konig agree in this that in Germany about 21/2 per cent of cancer patients are cured by surgery and perhaps as many by ray treatment. By making tremendous efforts it might be possible to increase the percentage of cured cancer sufferers to 10 per cent, but this would take years.
The question, “What causes cancer?” is difficult to answer. We can arrive at a conclusion only if we disregard the theories of laboratory workers, looking at matters from the point of view of practical experience. An examination of the facts shows that the great majority of cancers occur in the alimentary tract. About 30 per cent occur in the stomach alone and from 60 to 80 per cent in the entire alimentary tract from the lips to the bowel exit.
Further, it is worth noting that cancer of the alimentary tract is exceedingly rare in primitive races. These facts suggests that our nutrition may be responsible for the increase of cancer and of other diseases of the alimentary tract, such as gastric and duodenal ulcer, colitis, appendicitis, gallstones, constipation, all of which are exceedingly rare among the uncivilized.
Primitive races have excellent teeth. The teeth of the civilized are deplorable, notwithstanding our excellent dentists. All doctors are agreed that dental caries, a typical disease of civilization, is due to faulty nutrition. We may therefore conclude that cancer, which attacks particularly the alimentary tract, is also a disease of faulty nutrition.
I believe that the most hopeful method of fighting cancer consists in preventing it by reforming our dietary. The practical difficulties of such a reform are not so great as people imagine. That has been shown by Hindhede, Ragnar Berg, Bircher-Benner and others. But a return to a more primitive dietary will be strenuously opposed by the powerful economic interests engaged in denaturing our food.