When Vegans Get Cancer

When Vegans Get Cancer

By |2012-05-29T09:48:53+00:00May 29th, 2012|Tags: , |122 Comments

The only thing that can make me forgive Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees for going over to the dark side (disco) in the late 1970s is the fact that he was a vegan—an “ardent vegan” no less, according to Wikipedia.

Gibb, who was only 62, died last week of colon cancer. It’s unfair when anyone dies of cancer at such a relatively young age, but especially so when they are doing all of the right things—Gibb didn’t drink alcohol either—that should protect against this disease.

I’ve lost three friends to colon cancer. Two were vegetarians who died in their early 50s, and one was a vegan who died in his early 40s. It definitely feels a little surprising when vegans die from this disease, since there is very good evidence that diet affects colon cancer risk. Red and processed meats and excessive alcohol all increase risk while fiber appears to decrease it. The environment of vegetarians’ colons—the types of bacteria that live there, for example—is significantly different in ways that protect against cancer.

One reader of this blog brought to my attention a study linking low vitamin B12 to increased risk for colon cancer. Depending on where Gibb was getting his nutrition information, this might have been a factor, although there is very little research on this.

Alternatively, it’s possible that Gibb’s diet was low in calcium, which might have placed him at increased risk. Calcium regulates cell growth in ways that are thought to lower risk for certain cancers. There is evidence to support a protective effect of dairy foods on colon cancer risk, which is most likely due to the calcium content of these foods. It doesn’t mean that vegans should start drinking milk to reduce their colon cancer risk, but it does mean that it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of this nutrient. (And, aside from the ethical considerations, I’d opt for leafy greens and soyfoods over cow’s milk as calcium sources since they have other cancer-protective effects.)

The bottom line though, is that some vegans—including those who are doing all the right things as far as we know—get cancer. It’s popular to say that a vegan diet will make you “bullet proof” against disease.  And it’s possible that some vegans become complacent because of this. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that removal of polyps through colonoscopy (advised for everyone after the age of 50) could reduce colon cancer risk by as much as 50 percent. Vegans who erroneously believe that their diet guarantees that they won’t get colon cancer might not bother with this exam, thereby increasing their risk.

I have no idea whether any of these considerations affected Robin Gibb. Sometimes despite following every recommendation for reducing cancer risk, people get cancer anyway. It is, after all, a hard disease to pin down. It develops over decades, and there is evidence that it’s what you ate 20 or 30 and 40 years ago that matters the most, not what you are eating now. I doubt that Gibb was a vegan for all of his life (although at least one article said he had been vegan for decades).

Even in late adulthood, of course, diet changes may affect the progression of cancer. Compounds in certain plant foods affect enzymes that allow tumors to spread, for example. So it’s never too late to start eating more healthfully. (That’s especially true for things like heart disease and hypertension which are more sensitive to current dietary habits.)

At any age, we vegans can expect that our compassionate diet has the added advantage of lowering our risk for certain diseases. But, vegan diets are not “miracle” cures or guaranteed prevention and it’s a mistake to ever believe that they are. As always, the only true promise that comes with veganism is that it will remove your contribution to the use and abuse of animals.


References cited in this article:

 Zimmer J, Lange B, Frick JS, et al. A vegan or vegetarian diet substantially alters the human colonic faecal microbiota. Eur J Clin Nutr 2011.

 Dahlin AM, Van Guelpen B, Hultdin J, Johansson I, Hallmans G, Palmqvist R. Plasma vitamin B12 concentrations and the risk of colorectal cancer: a nested case-referent study. Int J Cancer 2008;122:2057-61.

 Zauber AG, Winawer SJ, O’Brien MJ, et al. Colonoscopic polypectomy and long-term prevention of colorectal-cancer deaths. N Engl J Med 2012;366:687-9


  1. caela May 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    I once read somewhere that veganism is not a magic bullet. Just a very good one.

    I always keep that in mind when someone either trys to tell me that all my health issue will be cured by going vegan or someone winges about how veganism didn’t save them from X so they gave it up.

    I been vegan for almost 5 years now … am I in perfect health? No. Am I in better health than I was 5 years ago? Yes.

    • davidcolescounselling July 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm - Reply

      I think the dietary effects of being Vegan are always positive…however, I feel very strongly it is more about ones state of mind. Many Vegans are extremely stressed about all the animal cruelty which may counteract any benefits of a healthy/cruelty free diet.

      Personally my immune system keeps improving the older I get and that is because I keep expanding my reality hence I can feel more freely, and also my vegan diet is healthy. Remember that you can be Vegan and eats lots of crap food still, and also the effects of Soy are still inconclusive.

      • Pamela November 8, 2012 at 11:17 am - Reply

        Fantastic comment! Our state of mind plays an enormous role on our health. Anger, stress, guilt, etc. can cause disease and cancer as well.

        Thanks for sharing this information.

        • Angela September 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm - Reply

          All very well in saying about stress, guilt and anger how does one really get rid of this I have tried but it;s always there somewhere and Im worried its really eating me up because it is part of me?

          Great comments though really said somethings to me I would like to become a vegan am vegetarian for about 5 months now but find the thought of vegan hard too hard> do you recommend any books or is it bit by bit one learns.

          • Ginny Messina September 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm

            I know it’s not so easy to get rid of it! But it’s definitely important to work on it to see if you can at least reduce it. Exercise, meditation, counseling–there are lots of different things to try. I did write about this a little bit in Vegan for Her–in the chapter on depression and stress–because it’s such an important part of health.

          • Angela September 7, 2013 at 3:32 am

            Thanks Ginny, I am a counsellor myself I thought I got rid of all that stuff I know it;s work ongoing but it;s still there. 6 months ago I was diagnosed with BC was treated with radiotherapy I was stage 2 but did not need chemotherapy. Thats when I changed my foods etc. But all these negatives have come back like a bolt of lightening and just keeps hitting me. Although I am fine feel quite depressed. What was the book you recommended about vegan for women – did you write a book or is it on the blog. Thank you for getting back to me I appreciate it.

          • Joy March 6, 2015 at 4:56 pm

            Angela, am sorry you experienced BC.I just recently got through it as well.I had surgery, chemo, radiotherapy and seventeen rounds of herceptin…I really enjoyed the above article and following comments.I believe that chronic stress can leave our immune system depleted, and so, perhaps we are less able to fight off disease.This conclusion, I came to, post BC, as I was very fit person, before diagnosis.I found I had many people in my life that drained and stressed me, so, if the relationships weren’t repairable, I let them go…best decision ever.All the best with your recovery, all small positive changes, that you feel are best for you, will add up to big positive change.

          • zahi July 18, 2015 at 2:28 pm

            Hi Angela I had exactly the same negative thoughts and start taking pill call maronil for depression that’s was really help.i you have question you can emil me

          • Lindsey March 21, 2014 at 11:15 am

            Angela, to answer your question about guilt and stress, one of the most helpful things is going through therapy. In order to get rid of these negative feelings, one must explore why they are there in the first place with the help of a trained professional. I have suffered with these issues on and off for most of my life and as a therapist myself, I have found that it is a process and letting go of the stuff is the key to happiness. Also, remember that as human beings we really have very little control over the world and focusing to accept and embrace uncertainty in life will create a state of relaxation and acceptance. I hope this helps 🙂

      • Geekgal September 27, 2017 at 8:44 pm - Reply

        Good point, just because one is vegan doesn’t mean one eats ALL the right things. Sugar is vegan but still not the best thing to eat. Also, everything in moderation. Too much of one type of item can still be harmful. Not to mention the pollutants on our plants. Organic is good, but pollutants can still be leached into the soil or in our air. Not to mention the chemicals we use on our bodies in soaps, makeup, hair dyes, etc. I have known Vegans who only care about what they eat not about everything in and around them that they may use in daily life.

    • Rosie October 29, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

      I like your take on veganism: “Am I in perfect health? No. Am I in better health than I was 5 years ago? Yes.”

    • Valter M. Silva April 30, 2013 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      The fact is: not all of those who say they are a vegan are really a vegan -they just wish they were a vegan. I wish I were a true vegan myself . A real, healthy, consciencious vegan diet – an ideal echological lifestyle, I should say – is not for everyone .We were not all born to be a Mozart, a Leonardo Da Vinci, An Einstein, of course. Not all of us were born to take full conscience of our own individual existence.

      • Valter M. Silva April 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm - Reply

        What I am trying to say is: To be a real Vegan is not for everyone Most vegetarians, even vegans, end up eating refined sugar, refined white flour, processed oils, and many, many other well known cancer cells promoters. So,don´t give up .Let´s trust the healing power of our own body, let´s trust Nature.

        • Amanda December 1, 2017 at 12:39 am - Reply

          I agree that we, as vegans, should strive to eat the healthiest we can however the definition of being a vegan isn’t to do with health. The definition from The Vegan Society is: “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” ( https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism )

          So, being a “real Vegan” doesn’t really have anything to do with eating perfectly; it’s not just a diet, it’s in how we live our lives.

    • DriaLeDuc January 14, 2018 at 4:22 am - Reply


  2. JL goes Vegan May 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Ginny, this is such a great post. I think the idea that a vegan diet is “disease-proof” simply sets people up for failure and they may ultimately walk away from a vegan diet if it didn’t ‘work’. Your last sentence says it all. Thank you!

  3. Sara May 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I recently came across your site and I absolutely love it. I appreciate your straight-forward writing style and your honest, kind tone. Such a great resource for vegans and anyone considering a vegan lifestyle. Thank you!

    • Vicki May 30, 2012 at 8:54 am - Reply

      I completely agree with Sara. Ginny, thank you so much for telling it like it is. We vegans don’t need to hear propaganda. We’re already committed to veganism for the animals. What we do need is honest information that can help us make the best decisions for our health. Thank you providing it.

  4. Mac May 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Someone who’s on the go, like Robin was, undoubtedly eats out a lot. Vegan or not – there’s no way to monitor for organic, GMO and general quality of ingredients under those conditions. And – eating a great diet doesn’t remove any of us from the knee-deep cesspool of contaminants our species has created of our planet. Eat vegan for “some” health benefit and for the positive influence that choice has on unclogging the drain to the cesspool.Thanks, Ginny

    • Margit May 16, 2013 at 5:41 am - Reply

      Robin did not eat out at all. He travelled with his own chef who cooked for him on tours etc.

      • Valter M. Silva July 30, 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

        I think cooked foods, even on a strict vegan diet, don´t offer quite the same protective effect against cancer growth as raw living foods like fruits and vegetables, with all their vitamins, enzymes and phitochemicals intact, just the way we were designed to eat. Just watch the inspiring Ruth Heidrick´s vídeos and read her book A Race for Life . Contrary to Dr John McDougall´s approach and instructions she adopted greens instead of grains, and reversed her cancer

  5. Kathryn May 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    I came across this statement on CNN’s website article about Robin Gibb’s death:
    “Robin’s twin brother, Maurice, died in 2003 from a twisted bowel.”
    Apparently, Robin Gibb had surgery in 2010 from a blocked and twisted bowel. It could be that there was a genetic propensity that contributed to his colon cancer.

    • disco 4 evah May 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm - Reply

      Absolutely. Cancers and other diseases have genetic components. My brother died of parotid cancer at age 37. He had none of the risk factors — he did not smoke, drink, chew tobacco, or work with radioactivity. Had he been a vegan he still would have died. If the Gibb family has a history of colon cancer, there’s probably nothing more Robin could have done to prevent it.

      • Elizabeth Foxworth February 25, 2015 at 3:20 pm - Reply

        I believe that Veganism is not the question here. (I am vegan though because of animal welfare) . I came across the name Otto Warburg who won the Nobel prize back in the 1930s proving that cancer cells cannot live in a high alkaline body. He proved that every primary tumour without exception was hosted by a body with a high acid pH. Food that the body Acidifies and Food that the body Alkalines do not always make ‘common sense’. EG Lemons are acidic outside of the body but Inside the body they Alkalise. Check it out. It appears that milk, meat, eggs are acidic to the body and the body must work hard to push them through BUT same goes for flour, sugar, rice, and a whole host of non animal products. Check your pH levels. If you are slightly alkaline – keep going. If you are acidic and vegan, take another look at the non animal foods you are putting in your body

  6. TofuForBrains May 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    I have been reading _Eat to Live_ by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I think he’s right-on about most things, but I keep cringing at the way he sounds like he is spouting snake oil every four sentences (essentially promising all your diseases will be cured and you will lose tons of weight by following this “amazing” lifestyle). I do believe that a plant-based, whole-foods, vegan diet offers good protection…but it’s not a guarantee and it’s definitely not a kooky “get-slim-fast” plan.

    We all want a sense of control over our future. Diet and exercise give us some of that, but unfortunately they do not make us invincible. Alas!

    • Bonnie May 30, 2012 at 5:01 am - Reply

      What a fantastic post, Ginny. It’s about time this myth about veganism being a miracle cure for what ails you was put to bed. Life is a crapshoot and all we can do is stack the deck in our favour. I have been vegan for the animals since day 1 and that hasn’t changed.

      I wholeheartedly agree with TofuForBrains (what a great moniker) about Joel Fuhrman’s promises. I think that’s why I stopped reading Eat to Live. Great as it is, (and I do eat more salads thanks to him), there is a “shopping channel” vibe to it that scares me a little. Nobody can guarantee anything, all said and done.

      • Lea Stretch October 12, 2013 at 11:40 pm - Reply

        I stopped reading Eat To Live as well. I had been reading other books like The China Study and the Engine 2 Diet, and the difference in the way the information is laid out is pretty astounding. I think there’s a lot of misinformation in Fuhrman’s book, too. I didn’t appreciate the tone of the book at all, and I remember at one point he insinuated that most of the people who read his book will be stupid people, but the “rare” smart person will benefit. It definitely did have a “snake oil” and “shopping channel” vibe, too.

      • Richard May 13, 2014 at 12:46 am - Reply

        I have read many of Joel Fuhrman’s books and I see nothing wrong with his three-fold promises in Eat to Live.

        When he wrote it in 2003 I suppose the idea was more controversial and he tried harder to sell the idea so maybe to some it seems like snake oil or shopping channel. In his later books perhaps he had more confidence as a result of more research in the literature and there was less selling going on.

        I did not have a lot of weight to lose when I started but there are many life stories in his books that substantiate the lost of weight. No problem with promise number one.

        Prevention or reversal of many medical conditions has been proven….even Bill Clinton has testified to that. Promise number two looking good!

        Certainly most readers will have a new understanding of food and health. No problem with promise number three!!!

        I do not know what percent of the American population follows a diet anything like what he recommends but I think it is less than five percent despite almost 75% being overweight or obese. I can understand why he is cynical about people sticking to it…

    • beforewisdom June 4, 2012 at 9:48 am - Reply

      TofuForBrains May 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      I have been reading _Eat to Live_ by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I think he’s right-on about most things, but I keep cringing at the way he sounds like he is spouting snake oil every four sentences (essentially promising all your diseases will be cured and you will lose tons of weight by following this “amazing” lifestyle).


      • Richard May 13, 2014 at 12:52 am - Reply

        He does not promise that all your diseases will be cured. People have lost “tons” of weight following his advice and also some have reversed serious health problems…

        He wrote that book in 2003….you should pick up the one he wrote in 2014, “The End of Dieting”. If you are now on SAD I can promise you that you will improve your health and likely live a better life if you make it six weeks on the diet!

  7. Jennifer Rooke, MD, MPH May 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    This is the reason that I try to avoid the word “vegan” in my clinic. When someone says they are vegan, the only thing you know is that they don’t eat animal products but you have no idea what they actually eat. I don’t know about Robin Gibb’s diet but many vegans remove meat and substitute highly processed meat substitutes instead. Isolated soy protein in some protein powders promotes the growth of cancer cells, similar to meat. I also know vegans who don’t like vegetables. I advise patients to eat whole unprocessed/minimally processed plant foods whenever possible and avoid labeling themselves and others.

    • obejoyful May 31, 2012 at 7:57 am - Reply

      I completely agree. As one author (J. Morris Hicks) points out, the term “vegan” conjures up images of what people don’t eat (i.e., meat, dairy, eggs, honey, etc.). What vegans DO eat is far more important. A person could live on a diet of Coke and potato chips and call themselves “vegan,” but they would likely be just as unhealthy and prone to disease as a person who lives on cheeseburgers.

      While there is no “magic bullet,” whole, unprocessed and natural plant foods offer the best protection. The closer you come to building 100% of your diet around these foods, the better off you will be.

      • vegan_scientist June 10, 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

        “whole, unprocessed and natural plant foods offer the best protection”

        link please.

        tofu and tempeh are processed foods. as is the lycopene-rich pasta sauce i had with *processed* al dente pasta a few days ago.

        more evidence and less woo, please.

    • Manden June 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      Hallelujah. Someone who actually makes sense. I haven’t eaten meat for 35 years, but I eat plenty of other things that vegans would disapprove of. I don’t call myself anything – I prefer to just say I don’t eat meat, if anyone needs to know. In fact, lots of my meals are vegan, some are not. Should I call myself a semi-vegan? I deplore fanaticism and the rigid thinking that some of my friends have – vegans, vegetarians, raw foodies, the no-gluten crowd, the no-soy crowd, the no-carb crowd, the ancient grains people. People who adhere to a strict diet that includes things that have been sitting in a warehouse for months may be fooling themselves.

      My preference is to eat fresh local stuff so I can see where it comes from, whatever it is.

      • Melissa August 9, 2012 at 8:13 am - Reply

        “I deplore fanaticism and the rigid thinking that some of my friends have…”

        See, what some folks like to classify as “being rigid”? I call that “being consistent”. I’m an ethical vegan. I don’t eat or use animals intentionally, as much as is possible. There are some that call going hungry for a meal rather than eating a questionable item “rigid” but I just call it walking the talk. Ethical vegans value living their ethics more than convenience… that might look rigid or fanatic but it’s just following through.

        If I’m morally opposed to beating animals or kids, I don’t ever do it, right? I’m morally opposed to rape and torture, so I won’t ever rape or torture. I’m so rigid and fanatical! Actually adhering to my personal ethics all the time like that. 😉

        You’re coming to it from a health standpoint. Those of us who are vegan for ethics aren’t on the same page as you are. Sure, you think eating packaged vegan food makes no sense – I think it makes plenty of sense since my top priority is not actively injuring or killing animals.

        Health is quite a ways down the list for me. It’s a nice extra but even if veganism was the most unhealthy diet, I’d still be vegan for the animals. I think I’m okay, though, since I’m a marathoner who’s run a 50K last month and has my first 50 miler in about 2 weeks. My blood numbers, weight, etc. are all good. Even eating stuff like Daiya and Gardein on the regular.

        I don’t think my moderate intake of packaged stuff is horrible and it makes me a bit crazy to see the fanatical, rigid “only whole foods, omg sugar and packaged food are garbage and will kill you” crowd always shouting down any and all non-whole foods.

        • Rebecca March 11, 2018 at 5:50 am - Reply

          Be careful. I was due to do my first ultra marathon at the end of this month and I ate a vegan diet mostly very healthy but with some packaged stuff. I felt great. Then I discovered a lump and it’s cancerous. I’m only 36.

      • Angela September 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm - Reply

        Absolutely it is all about balance,

  8. Julie Hasson May 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Well said! Thank you for another great article Ginny.

  9. Claire May 29, 2012 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    I know exactly what you mean – when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my husband’s first reaction was, “But you do everything right, how can you get cancer?” The truth is that there are so many factors in the formation of a disease. In my case, it was genetic. It hasn’t altered my conviction to eat a vegan diet, but I agree that it is not magical!

  10. Chuck May 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Solid research doesn’t seem to show that colonoscopy will reduce colon cancer by 50%. For a detailed report on the subject go to http://www.drmcdougall.com, click on “search” and type in “colonoscopy”. There you’ll find an extensive article and good reasons not to have a colonoscopy by Dr. McDougall.

    • Broccoli Lover June 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm - Reply

      I am a 44 year old female and vegan since 1991. I seldom drink and don’t use drugs. I take b12 and calcium supplements (and others as recommended by Ginny and Jack). Earlier this year I had a polyp removed during a routine colonoscopy.

      Only time will tell if my plant-based diet will trump my genes. And although it is impossible to know for sure, it is likely if my mother had a colonoscopy earlier she may still be alive today. After my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer her older sister had many polyps removed and is now in her 80’s.

      Please use caution in deciding to forego a colonoscopy, especially if you have colon cancer in your family. A plant-based diet may not be enough.

      Thank you, Ginny, for all you do.

      • Mary March 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm - Reply

        Genetics can play a huge role in developing pre-cancerous colon polyps. Some people just get them. My father is a healthy non-drinker and has had more than 20 removed. He has to have a lot of colonoscopies to catch them early. So far, none has been cancerous, but a few have come close. I know the risks of colonoscopies (they are bad), and I’m doing several things that I think may reduce my risk of developing cancerous polyps. But you bet I’ll be getting a colonoscopy at 45 to see how things are looking. If I’m developing polyps while eating a healthy diet, I will go back for repeated colonoscopies because colon cancer is one thing I don’t want to take me out.

    • Laurie Zeigler January 2, 2014 at 8:43 am - Reply

      Just found this site.

      Dr. McDougall states that: “In terms of making a decision about whether or not to have a screening performed, the benefits and risks to you must be taken into consideration. The absolute risk of developing colon cancer for people following the Western diet is to 2.5%.15 Having one first-degree relative with colon cancer increases the risk to 4.7%, and with two relatives the risk becomes 9.6% (up to the age of 75).”

      Although those stats may seem low, a very dear 50+ year old friend of mine, who had been a vegan since his early twenties; read every book on the vegan diet and its benefits (over those years); and also studied supplement intake(to further support superior health), died of colon cancer within about a year after diagnosis. Virtually all of his friends were vegans as well. His advice to his adult son upon learning of his terminal illness: see a doctor yearly and have a colonoscopy as directed by a physician. You see, he had a false sense of security tied solely to his lifestyle. He learned too late that one must balance any eating lifestyle with standard medical practices (that/which have been heavily researched and supported by the data) and family history. As a result of his death, I will not take supplements, nor ignore the medical communities’ recommendations when supported by data and my own doctors. I have learned in my 50+ years of living that my own mainstream doctors are informed and diligent at seeing that they provide the best and latest information when advising me. I come to them prepared to ask questions based upon my knowledge of the information available to me (published study results). I look to their credentials (residency, years of experience, specialization(s), and post-medical school education) to support my level of trust. That is all one can do . . . .

    • Richard May 13, 2014 at 12:56 am - Reply

      Many doctors are reducing the frequency they recommend a colonoscopy. I just had one and am 73 years old. The doctor recommended waiting five years for another one despite having two brothers that had colon cancer.

      • Kathryn June 12, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

        I had my first colposcopy 6 years ago. Even at that time, the standard frequency was every 10 years. I had no polyps or ‘iffy’ looking areas, but my father died of colon cancer, so I have to go in every 5 years instead of 10.

  11. Olivia May 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    Great post! Adding to the discussion is McDougall’s newsletter (also available as a talk on youtube) on Steve Jobs. http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2011nl/nov/jobs.htm

  12. Ciarrai May 30, 2012 at 3:59 am - Reply

    So….you can imagine my surprise when the urologist (me? talking to a urologist) says to me that given the rise in the PSA level it would be sensible to do a biopsy of the prostate. 29 years of quasi vegetarianism: would not eating the fish have kept the PSA number lower? Isn’t really the case that we are adrift in this willy nilly universe which has a seeming lack of order and uniformity. Pay your money, take your chances. You will hear about the 90 year old who drinks whiskey every day and eats beef all the time and then the 30 vegan with terminal cancer. Pay your money, take your chances. I would still opt for my version of humane treatment of animals. I know, except for fish.

  13. ADoodle May 30, 2012 at 6:06 am - Reply

    Now that I’ve read your post I wish I had a time machine to go back about a month to when I had good health insurance finally make an appointment for another colonoscopy. (I’m only 28 but I have something like 3 risk factors.) Oh well, top of the to-do list for after I get some employer-sponsored insurance.

    • beforewisdom June 4, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Maybe someday if the health insurance industry, Republicans and frightened misinformed TEA party members let us have National Healthcare this wouldn’t be an issue for you. No disrespect to anyone.

  14. Tracy H. May 30, 2012 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Thanks for this post, Ginny! My stepfather (who isn’t veg) was diagnosed with stage IV anal cancer last month, so I’ve been reading a lot about cancer. I even attended a seminar last night about the biology of cancer and what we can do to prevent and fight it. The speaker was a molecular cancer biologist who wasn’t vegan (although she did say she doesn’t consume dairy). And the gist of it was that we should all be eating a heavily plant-based diet filled with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains.

  15. Mart May 30, 2012 at 8:48 am - Reply

    Thank you for this article Ginny. An important conversation to have. “bullet proof” thoughts can be harmful. But we should also be wary for another reaction that is quite common: when a vegan gets sick for whatever reason many people around them will automatically think that it has something to do with the veganism.

  16. Vicki May 30, 2012 at 9:01 am - Reply

    And btw, as a British Punk Invasion gal myself, I’m with you re: “disco” being “the dark side” 😉

    • disco 4 evah May 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Disco does not suck, nor is it “the dark side.” Musically, there is nothing wrong with disco. White DJs felt threatened by its popularity, so they trashed it.

      Disco brings everybody together — black, white, gay, straight — and accepts us for being ourselves. Disco is all about people enjoying themselves and their lives. Sure, the clothes were hideous, but all 70s clothes were hideous (bell-bottoms, platform shoes, and ponchos, anyone?) Anything taken to extremes can be bad. Disco is fun.

      If you don’t like it, that’s your opinion, but don’t trash it.

      • whatevah June 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm - Reply

        If you like it, that’s your opinion. Don’t trash their opinion.

        This is a blog. On the internet. People are allowed to say ‘disco sucks’ if they want, just like you’re allowed to say it rules. They’re having a joke, ok?

        Why are you so upset just ‘cos a couple of people on the internet don’t like disco?

  17. Jennifer May 30, 2012 at 11:17 am - Reply

    I agree with the poster above. Some vegans eat a lot of processed soy foods and many of these are made from GMO soy. Cancer rates have doubled since the release of GMOs into our food system. Circumstantial I know but I doubt it is a coincidence.

    • Ginny Messina May 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      Nope–cancer rates have hardly changed since the introduction of GMO foods. I can’t find any evidence for increased risk in cancer due to GMO soy or soy protein isolate.

      • beforewisdom June 4, 2012 at 9:52 am - Reply

        THANK YOU.

        Geeze, people are so fast to tell stories.

  18. Matt May 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Ginny, thanks so very much for your honest, thorough evaluation of reality (and for answering the absurd myths that just won’t die).

    Your work will extend and improve the life of anyone willing to read with an open mind.

  19. Gena May 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this, Ginny. I have no problem whatsoever saying that I dislike the expression “diseaseproof.” Having spent a year working in pediatric oncology, I am quite certain there is no such thing–and I don’t only mean this in regard to childhood cancer. There’s a lot we can do to increase the likelihood that we will not suffer from certain kinds of cancers, but health is also still mysterious and often unpredictable. Cells go feckless, genetics can’t always be turned “off” or “on,” and people with healthy lifestyles still get sick. It happens. And by insisting that certain kinds of diets can be a magic bullet in preventing all disease, we disrespect the many people who have suffered from cancers that were, in fact, not related to lifestyle.

  20. The Valley Vegan (lisa f.) May 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    What worries me are the people who switch to veg*n diets later in life for the sole purpose of cancer prevention. Why does it worry me? Because they go into the “diet” without really understanding the nuances of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and general balance. For someone who used to think that a piece of meat+corn+potato=well rounded meal to suddenly understand how to balance their nutrition would take a real commitment on their part. I’ve been veg*n for 22 years and I still find something new that I should or should have been doing.

    There are probably more people switching to veg*n diets in order to avoid certain illnesses who are less educated on what it means to eat a balanced diet, but there are certainly plenty of veg*ns out there who think that *just* being veg*n is prevention enough.

    Keep getting the word out there, Ginny. Everyone needs as much information as they can, and it’s clear that we all need a wake-up call once in a while: news that a decades long vegan has died of a disease we were supposed to be at lower risk for.

  21. Bethany May 31, 2012 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Good but sobering post. It is very easy to get complacent when you feel you are doing things right. You just have to do everything you can to stay healthy and then relax. Living a life full of fear and stress can be just as bad as eating the wrong food.

  22. Joe Espinosa June 1, 2012 at 4:50 am - Reply

    Huge fan of the Bee Gees, and still heartbroken over the loss of Maurice years ago, and now Robin. While I certainly agree with the evidence based idea that a vegan diet (as if there is just one vegan diet) is not a bullet proof shield against disease, it is worth pointing out that Robin did have a history of trouble with alcohol and drugs in his early years. Tough to know if this contributed to the cellular changes that give rise to cancer years and decades later, but he was honest and open about having come through that, so it should be added to muddy the waters.

  23. Vegan with cancer June 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Glad to see this post – I had mentioned this to you a while back, via Twitter actually. It’s frustrating to read all the information suggesting a vegan diet prevents cancer, when sometimes nothing will prevent cancer. If the cells begin to morph and spread, all the right food won’t make that much of a difference.

    I’d been vegan for three years and vegetarian for five when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but of course I grew up eating all the nitrates and nitrites in processed meats, using toxic household cleaners, and personal hygiene products containing parabens, etc. It’s really hard to avoid toxins, and all the liver cleansing in the world may not undo cell damage already done.

    Veganism is no cure-all. I’m vegan for the animals and the environment, and lastly for my health, and I remain vegan while living with cancer. I choose my foods carefully, and aim for 90% organic or higher. We can all make healthy changes, and live the best we can, but we all have the potential for cancer to take hold and spread through our bodies. In this 21st century of life with chemicals, it’s hard to avoid. We should simply do our best and try to be happy.

  24. Ellen Jaffe Jones June 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the reminders, Ginny! From years of teaching The Cancer Project classes, I’ve seen so many great results all across the board that I understand why a well-balanced, healthy vegan diet is endorsed by so many. One student lost 120 pounds in 8 months, never counting a calorie and loving the food. She had been given up for dead when she came to my class with multiple myeloma, and 8 years later, she is a thriving vegan who has been able to dump much of the regimen she was on before the diet.

    There are so many causes of cancer that it is often hard to pinpoint in every case. My mom, aunt & both sisters had breast cancer, estrogen receptive and we were part of the original breast cancer gene studies. I had mainstream docs telling me, “You better do something really different to avoid your family fate.” Most of them had heart disease, diabetes, major colon disease, Alzheimer’s and arthritis too. So yeah, while there are no guarantees, I’m thinkin’ that diet and exercise thing is working pretty well so far…for the better part of 20 years as I continue to place in 5K races and do marathons.

    • THINK_AGAIN April 9, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

      There are many factors for getting cancer but just because someone says they are vegan that does not mean that they ate healthy all of the time. Think about it, there are a lot of foods that are not from animals that are unhealthy for us. I have a friend who is a vegetarian and she has ice cream in huge amounts all of the time. Vegans may be eating sweets and drinking coffee, etc. that do not lend themselves to good health.
      The raw foodists also remind people that vegan is good but it is not as good as raw vegan.

  25. beforewisdom June 4, 2012 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. I was wondering how Gibbs might have ended up with cancer. Thanks for reminding us that “reduced risk” doesn’t mean “impregnable shield”. As you wrote, that wrong belief can lead to vegans not doing things for their health, like screenings, that may save their lives. I’ve heard that if colon cancer is caught early enough, it can be treated.

  26. Brian June 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Robin Gibb’s death was very sad for us because we have enjoyed the Bee Gee’s music since way back when. We even liked them during the dark disco days though we couldn’t dance that hot. Those days were really fun, actually. As to the protection afforded those who eat a vegan/vegetarian diet, I have a recent change in PSA count which has caused the doctor to recommend a prostate biopsy which I will undergo this coming Monday. I am not a doctor and I never played one on television, so I will go with the flow and have this biopsy. I don’t feel like I have cancer and I am symptom-free. It is ironic that a person who has espoused vegetarianism will now undergo this procedure which I have, heretofore, thought of as necessary for those who take rotten care of themselves. It may just come down to: pay your money, take your chances. Cancer is probably caused by the zillions of chemicals that are in the world now. They are everywhere, in most of the things that people eat, drink. I became aware of the fact that I was not “bullet-proof” at age 12. I have not deluded myself since then about some special protection I might have. I wish everyone who has written about this nothing but peace and love. If the results of the biopsy are not good, I will go to Australia a couple of years earlier than I had thought I would. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia.

  27. K.C. Bath June 7, 2012 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Good information. Sometimes it’s easy for even a vegan to slack off on dietary needs. As I get older, the more I realize I gotta treat this meat suit as good as possible.

  28. thehealthyapron June 15, 2012 at 5:19 am - Reply

    As an RD who contemplated going vegan in the past, I completely agree with this post. Veganism doesn’t guarantee you will be disease-free. For example, what if you are still eating non-organic produce? What if most of your diet is processed vegan foods, what if your diet is too high in refined carbohydrates, what if you are using loads of chemical-laden skin care products/household cleaners? What if you live near heavy traffic areas and breathe in a lot of air pollution etc, etc. There are SO many more environmental factors that are contributing to our development of cancers, being vegan might help a little but it doesn’t make you immune.

  29. Fred June 22, 2012 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Yeah, let’s all go get a colonoscopy next week. Know what the mortality rate is for colonoscopies- 1 in 500! Your physician won’t tell you that, if he even knows that is. (Journal of Gastroenterology) Then of course there are infections, punctures of the intestine, and if you have diverticulitus when they inflate your colon they could pop one of those little pouches. Anytime some doctor suggests a procedure just ask if he’s had it.

    Prevention isn’t 100% I will certainly admit but THOUSANDS of people die in hospitals every year from drug interactions, botched procedures, aquired infections, misadministration of prescribed medications and just plain incompetence. Fred

  30. Elizabeth July 17, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I never ever heard of a vegan getting colon cancer. I suppose if your diet consists mostly of white bread, pasta and tofu this could happen, but the closer to vegan you are, the less likely you are to get this type of cancer. A fiber-less diet would be the most likely cause, and “white foods” have very little of it. It is assumed that a vegan will also eat beans and whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies, all containing fiber. Very few vegans eat much sugar, which is also fiber-less. The greatest number of vegan cancer victims are usually in the rock music industry and are casualties of drug use, like Linda McCartney, whose veganism could not compete with years of smoking marijuana and subsequently succumbed to breast cancer. Tofu, by the way, is a miraculous food which contains protein, healthy fats and phyto-chemicals, so it is unlikely that heavy consumption of it would lead to colon cancer. The phyto-chemicals make up for lack of fiber, especially when no meat is consumed, as meat leaves toxic residue in the digestive tract.

    • Melissa August 9, 2012 at 8:22 am - Reply

      “Very few vegans eat much sugar, which is also fiber-less.”

      Hi. We’ve obviously never met.

      Also, you’ve never met ALL my vegan friends who love sugar and eat copious amounts of baked goods. Or are bakers themselves. We got a local shop that makes vegan donuts and everyone flipped out! Ditto when vegan softserve hit the Twin Cities. And if the successes of the annual Worldwide Vegan Bakesales are any indicator, we’re not alone in this.

      Just because we’re vegan doesn’t mean we suddenly are sugar eschewing. I’d say very few vegans eat low-sugar diets, given my personal experiences. I’ve yet to meet a vegan who, when offered a goodie, turns it down due to just not eating/liking sugar.

      I’m sure they exist but they aren’t in my (large) circle of ethical/AR vegans. “For health” vegans might have different opinions, of course.

  31. Still not a skinny vegan July 24, 2012 at 6:24 am - Reply

    […] diet makes you “disease-proof.” (Ginny takes some of this on, far batter than I, in her When Vegans Get Cancer […]

  32. Robyn August 5, 2012 at 9:55 am - Reply

    I think it is very important to try not to mislead people. There are no guarantees in life. I had been a vegan for many years when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I kept telling the surgeon that it couldn’t be true because I was vegan, didn’t drink or smoke, and exercised daily. It didn’t prevent my cancer from happening. I was frustrated and felt betrayed. I still get angry when I read an article about preventing cancer. I fell off the wagon in anger and returned to a horrible processed cheesy diet. Feeling horrible and suffering from arthritis I am now vegan again because I feel good and now realize my healthy vegan lifestyle did not prevent cancer, but did enable me to fight the cancer and win. I recovered very quickly. Being vegan won’t guarantee safety from illness, but it makes me feel good each day and that is why I must be vegan.

  33. Karen August 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for helping educate folks that cancer can come no matter what you do. A vegan diet is good enough to stand on compassion and environmental reasons alone. That said, it’s also good to have the science that you and others offer to make certain that being veganish is healthy as possible 🙂

    I had stage 0 breast cancer in 2009. I was an obese vegetarian who took birth control pills for years because they really helped with hormone difficulties. I do consider the obesity to be a strong risk factor and possibly the progesterone in the BC pills. Since then I’ve had a full hysterectomy, lost weight (now 130! Yay!), went vegan.

    Everything checks out very well for the moment. Do I have better risk assessment now that I’m svelte and vegan? Yes. Is there any possibility that the cancer will return or a new one will develop? Certainly. No guarantees with this or any other diet.

    The important thing to me is to understand those realities and simply have compassion for those who develop these diseases.

  34. luis September 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    What if it happened because of pesticides?

  35. Michelle September 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    I have to wonder how many vegans/vegetarians have had digestive problems and have developed GI cancers or reproductive/breast cancers like those mentioned above since the introduction of GMOs, and rGBh.

    Since most of us eat soy and 90% of the soy in the US is GMO, how long have some of us unknowingly being ingesting this crap? I for one, was doing it for probably 10 years. I have a ton of malabsorbtion and digestive issues right now. I’ve completely eliminated GMOs for the past year, but I feel like I may have done permanent damage.

  36. Ben September 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    To my recollection, Robin Gibb only adopted veganism in his mid-30s. Prior to that, there was much malnutrition in their impoverished days as showbiz children. He battled an amphetamine addiction, on and off, from late teens to possibly early 30s. That led to a highly irregular diet, such as subsisting on nothing for days but some sausages.

    His sad demise is due to genetics and skipping on early detection. He actually seemed to have survived longer than anticipated during his 2+ year struggle.

  37. Butterflies October 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Although not a popular opinion among vegan activists, I agree With The Vegan RD. Vegan eating is not a guarantee of escaping dreaded diseases, and many advocates try to promote veganism as a health plan. It is an ethical stance of non-participation in animal exploitation, and that IS precisely what it is. Veganism is not a diet, not a health plan. Yes many vegans do get healthier from being vegan, but I’ve known vegans to die young, to die of cancer. So I basically don’t promote it as anything but an ethical stance. I have been vegan for 34 years and am very healthy and all my long time vegan friends are still kicking and fairly healthy. People have a better chance as a vegan usually to be healthy, but eating a vegan diet alone is not enough insurance of maintaining good health; there are many factors.

  38. baobab November 30, 2012 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Sometimes diseases are caused by EMOTIONAL factors in our live : STRESS, ANGER, FEAR, WORRY etc….Let’s not forget that we are not only physical beings, but have spiritual, emotional and psychological aspects as well…

  39. it_be_asin December 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Of course vegans get cancer. Some of them get cancer and die far earlier than what you might expect. The question is, what is the probability of this happening to a vegan versus an omnivore?

    Diet is an important factor in preventing cancer, but what causes cancer are mutated cells which have transformed and become immune to normal apoptotic signals. Lifestyle, diet and exercise can limit the chances of a transformed cell line establishing itself in the body, but a cell line will transform for its own reasons. You can omit risk factors for oncogenesis from your life, but there is still a small probability you can get cancer, and be s*** out of luck.

  40. Desiree December 26, 2012 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Not to mention our water and air is also tainted. BPA in plastic and cans. Carcinogenic ingredients in many lotions, cleaners, etc. You can control as much as you can but sometimes things like the air we breath and water we drink are out of our control. I have been the healthiest in my life since being vegan, rarely get sick, hair and nails grow super fast but I also do not eat GMOs or any soy. Thanks for the great article. I only get b12 from nutritional yeast but maybe I need to add a supplement. 🙂

  41. collegeStudent January 2, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Gerson Diet which has been used to treat & successfully treat cancer for decades now.

    Of course it’s illegal in the US so many here are not aware of it.

    One other note, we don’t know every morsel the late Robin Gibb ate or what he did not eat.

    A (disco) rock star’s life is something no one of us know about, so we can’t know what drugs-pills or other non-healthy things he may have encountered while on the road.

  42. nick January 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    May be these vegetarians or vegans consume more pesticides on a daily basis than meat eaters.

  43. Anthony M January 12, 2013 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Dear friends,

    I am vegetarian for up to 55 years and I started Vegan diet 15 years ago and I never get sick even simple cold. I use simples foods like 03 crudes vegetables differents during day or 03 differents fruits in alternative. In addition whole brown rice cooked, tofu, nuts, coconut and olive oil, soy milk, or other vegetal milk. The more important is never use any industrialized food or drink, but do your drink with flexseeds, sesame, fruits.drink water, make exercices, meditation in God and make jacuzzi weekly.
    I promisse you that you will never get sick..God bless you..I am sixty but I look like 35…

  44. Johnlove January 13, 2013 at 1:27 am - Reply

    One of my vegetarian nephews had his head operated for tumors last year. I remember a few years back when I was in his house, he used a lot of cooking oil in his food preparations.
    Therefore I feel being vegan is not enough, You have to minimize the use of cooking oil as well.

    • Keith April 30, 2015 at 1:58 pm - Reply


  45. Lautaro January 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    The thing is that being vegan has nothing to do with being healthy. Do not confuse both terms. Being vegan it’s only a tiny tool in order to get healty but not the only one, and even then, i mean, you could be vegan and eat lot of crap.

  46. IAN January 31, 2013 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Reading Steve Jobs’ autobio I’m struck by his faddy eating since an early age and then him suffering cancer. This made me start to google for people with similar profiles like this page.

  47. Cristina March 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Great article! However, there is one thing that is absolutely not true:

    “There is evidence to support a protective effect of dairy foods on colon cancer risk, which is most likely due to the calcium content of these foods”.

    Most people should know by now that dairy is BAD for you, and that it actually TAKES the calcium away from your bones. Upon consumption, dairy acidifies within the body and extracts calcium from our bones. The calcium acts as a neutralizer for the acid as the body tries to naturally balance its PH level. This process in turn results in being a major cause for cancer, osteoporosis, arthritis and other diseases. The highest levels of osteoporosis in the world, with a difference, are in the western countries, the biggest consumers of dairy. The lower consumption of dairy, the lower the osteoporosis (together with other chronic diseases that milk and its derivatives cause). So think twice and don´t fall for the lies of the evil dairy industry. Kill the dairy myth. Dairy destroys your health. Inform yourself in independent, reliable sources on the internet, like this: http://www.naturalnews.com/031255_milk_health.html

  48. Sabine Ver August 21, 2013 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    After reading “Eat to Live” by Dr. Fuhrman, as well as “The China Study” by Dr. Campbell, I find stories such as this one very compelling and interesting. Dr. Campbell particularly studied the effects of diet on cancer development and claims that he was able to turn the growth of cancer cells on and off in mice by feeding them either soy protein, or milk protein. He eventually concluded that it is animal protein that makes cancer cells grow and thrive.

    Since there are vegans that do die of cancer, one would have to analyse every detail of their diet, environment and genetic background to find a possible cause. As someone already pointed out, being vegan does not equal healthy. That is why Fuhrman and Campbell refer to their diets as plant-based, or nutritarian. A broad plant based diet will supply you with all the nutrients you need to obtain the best immune system. Supplemental B12 is also needed. On the other hand, a vegan diet that includes processed and food-like products, GMOs, oils and especially sugars will not. And I have seen many so-called vegans who still stuff their faces with cookies, pies, and ice cream, even though they contain butter, eggs and milk.

    • Ginny Messina August 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks for this comment, Sabine. It’s important to keep in mind that feeding large amounts of isolated nutrients to animals doesn’t really predict what happens to humans eating actual food.

      And oils and GMOs have not been linked to risk for chronic disease.

      But the real point of my article is that even when we are eating and living as healthfully as we possibly can, it does not make us bullet-proof against cancer. We just don’t know how to do that (yet).

      • Sabine Ver August 22, 2013 at 11:19 am - Reply

        Greetings Ginny, I agree with you for the most part that certain illnesses may never be prevented. However, I can not share your assumptions about GMOs, and I like to explain why. For one, no long term studies have ever been conducted in the US to verify that GMOs are safe. This is because the FDA does not require them. Second, most other countries in the world have either banned GMOS, or require labeling, for a reason. European, and many other independent international studies actually do show that long term GMO consumption in animals is linked to tumor growth, liver disease and early death rates, especially in females. So, to blindly trust in GMO safety is foolish, imo.

        Also, if you look at the cause of death history, you will see that 100 years ago, cancer was only responsible for about 3-5% of all deaths. Today, as you may know, cancer is the second leading cause of death. Have you ever wondered what causes this increase of cancer deaths? And what have decades of billion $$$ cancer research produced? Interestingly enough, herbicides, pesticides and GMO foods have also been introduced over the past 100 years, and their use and consumption continues to increase. GMOs are genetically engineered plants that don’t die when sprayed with Round Up – which is a highly toxic chemical – created by a company that is in business of creating the most toxic substances known to men.

        Why would anyone not at least consider a link between GMO consumption and cancer unless you profit from their businesses?

        • Ginny Messina August 22, 2013 at 11:51 am - Reply

          Sabine, I’m not defending GMOs. I don’t know enough about them to either defend or denigrate them. It’s something that is well outside my area of expertise.

          I’m only saying that I haven’t seen any real evidence that they are related to cancer. I don’t put much stock in animal studies at all; they just don’t related to what happens in humans. And wasn’t the most highly publicized animal study on this found to be completely misleading?

          And we can’t look at cancer rates over the past 100 years and pull out one or two changes in the environment and say that they are the cause. Many things have changed in our environment over that time and it’s a huge task to figure out which of them are related to cancer. Also, people live longer now, which is one reason for the higher incidence of cancer.

          The fact is, though, that cancer incidence is on the decline, so that doesn’t really make much of an argument regarding GMOs.

          And the Round-Up ready plants you are describing are just one example of genetic modification–not a definition of GMO. Even if breeding those plants is harmful, it doesn’t make every single example of genetic engineering harmful. That would be a pretty big stretch in logic!

        • DaveDandelion August 22, 2013 at 8:45 pm - Reply


          I’ve been keeping up with the GMO topic so I think I can help.

          The safety of GMO is settled. Many many scientific institutions have weighed in on it enough for a healthy consensus. http://sleuth4health.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/is-gm-food-safe-experts-around-the-globe-answer/

          (another thing we have no longterm studies on are vegan diets BTW) I think it’s a shame that with the well established safety record of genetic modification some still insist on torturing poor animals in experiments.

          There are many variables in cancer rates. I might think that our increased life spans may have something to do with. Correlation does not equal causation. We could easily say Organic food causes autism for example: http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2013/02/organic-food-causes-autism.html

        • Richard May 13, 2014 at 1:08 am - Reply

          Have to wonder how much of the increase in cancer rates depends on the ability to detect it.

          However, what about all the chemicals we face each day in water, food and the air? We do not know what the impact of each or in total is to humans.

    • jen May 29, 2017 at 8:48 am - Reply

      Incorrect. It was casein he fed rats that is the protein in milk, not soy.

  49. Sabine Ver August 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    I really appreciate our discussion, Ginny. It is important that people talk, read and learn.

    The highly publicized French study you mention is intersting, but hardly the only reliable study out there. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) may supply you with a whole list of international and independent studies that are credible, scientific and quite alarming. And even the French study was not ‘completely’ misleading, as you say. Yes, French scientists used typical lab-bred rats that are prone to tumor growth, and yes, their methods did not adhere to the typical European standards. However, the end results can not be denied. The rats fed with GMO grew huge tumors and died earlier, while those fed non-GMOs did not. In fact, even in human studies (done in Europe) it is seen that the genes that are inserted into GM soy can transfer into the DNA of bacteria that lives inside of us, and cause long term problems, especially to women and their unborn children. Toxic insecticides produced by GM corn were found in the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses in a recent European study. And numerous health problems turned up when GMOs were first introduced in 1996, when the percentage of Americans with chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years. It can take decades before cancer is detected. And even the American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association condemn the use of GM bovine growth hormone because the milk from treated cows has more of the IGF-1 hormone – which is linked to cancer.

    As to the reduced cancer death rates, with the many expensive and long term cancer treatments that we now offer, such as chemo and radiation, less people die from cancer. But, a growing number is still getting cancer every year.

    • Ginny Messina August 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm - Reply

      Again, I can’t really comment on the GMO research since I don’t follow it–and I ignore animal research. But regarding cancer rates, I was talking about incidence, not death from cancer. Incidence is on the decline.

    • DaveDandelion August 22, 2013 at 8:55 pm - Reply


      There was a lot wrong with that Seralini rat study. Especially the whole you know, torturing rats part. Here’s a list of links of why that study was so flawed.

      If that’s too much to read check out this fun video where it’s pointed out that the conclusion of that study showed that male rats who drank Roundup actually lived longer! Do you think male humans should start drinking RoundUp? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWQON4FzQo4

      • kruemmel February 27, 2014 at 2:26 pm - Reply

        Dave – the French study with rats on GMO used the very same type of rats and test methods as Monsanto does for their 90 days studies. How come you are not doubting Monsanto’s short term studies?

        Why wouldn’t anyone be careful to trust a toxic chemical company that has just highjacked our food system! They bully farmers, have increased our pesticide and herbicide use, we have now super bugs and super weeds, and they have not fed the starving! They bring no benefit to this world whatswhoever! Except their own $billion profits!

        • Kimberlie Elkins September 17, 2015 at 6:19 pm - Reply


  50. Sabine Ver August 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    According to the Center for Disease Control:

    Cancer rates in men is down by 0.6%. Lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer are down by even smaller numbers.

    But – among children 19 and younger, cancer incident rates increased. All other cancer incident rates continue to increase.

    I know it is misleading when you read their headline: “many cancers continue to decline”, when in fact most continue to grow.

  51. Sandy September 7, 2013 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Research does lend that vegetarians have higher rates of colorectal cancer than nonvegetarians. Plus, you got to remember that some cancers are caused by viruses that won’t be affected by diet. These two should remind us that we are not disease-proof.

  52. TheOne September 12, 2013 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I often wonder why everyone is so hell bent on these statistics and scientific studies when they are so flawed and subjective. How reliable are diet based studies when the diet is reported solely by the subject? Maybe vegans and vegetarians don’t have the cancer numbers because there aren’t that many of them compared to the meat eating folk. Maybe it is because a lot of modern meat eaters eat processed and bastardized foods and a fair amount of vegans/vegetarians are into more whole foods – who doesn’t see an improvement when they stop eating crap? Maybe we haven’t seen how the vegan/vegetarian diet will affect a wide range of people since it is in its infancy stage compared to the diet we evolved from. What about the meat eaters who live very long active lives? How do we explain cultures that consume plenty animal and are not plagued by modern day issues we face in more developed countries? My point is I think there is more to it than whether you eat meat or don’t eat meat. I hear people who are smug in the fact that they are good because they don’t eat animal and they have two spare tires around their midsection. We squabble amongst ourselves unwilling to acknowledge that nagging feeling that something just doesn’t make sense – the pieces just don’t all fit. It’s like focusing on race when, in truth, the real game is economics…

  53. Anne December 12, 2013 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Hi! They most likely got cancer if they weren’t eating organic vegan foods. Of course there would be huge likelihood of anyone getting cancer if you aren’t eating the purest food. Vegetables and yes most soybeans are loaded with pesticides. Was there fluoride in their water, did they live in a toxic city, did they have vaccinations in their lifetime or take antibiotics?, the list goes on and on. Check out the site- thedoctorwithin.com If you asked me, It’s 1% of people who actually really care about the environment, and how they leave it for their children.

  54. Helen March 10, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I have been a vegan since 1990. I was diagnosed with colon cancer, stage 3C) in October. I can tell you I didn’t get a colonoscopy because I was vegan. I am 64 and that tumor has been in me for more than ten years! It was huge and had grown outside the colon and was in 7 of the 17 nodes they took.
    I was a crappy vegan. I ate movie popcorn with oil on it! I ate fat and crap like crazy, but I figured it was vegan right? 🙁 I am 5’8″ and weighed 236 pounds. I changed my ways and have lost 50 pounds. I need to lose another 50.
    Today they said my liver looks suspicious. All because I believed the hype that I was safe because I was vegan. My fault for being a crappy vegan, however. I carry four genes for colon cancer ad cancer is rampant in my family. I was a fool!

  55. Keith April 30, 2015 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    There are a lot of bad foods that are vegan. Low fat vegan whole foods (organic preferred) and starch based is your best bet. Avoid sugar, oils and processed foods especially fake meats. We were made to eat from the garden. A little indiscretion on occasion is alright, only if you can handle it without it triggering a binge attitude. I agree that once you are diagnosed with cancer, you have already had it for many years.

  56. janet January 21, 2016 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Vegans can eat very badly. I for one was full blown bulimic before becoming vegan. However, since becoming a vegan depression has lifted, am emotionally more stable and clear headed and – self esteem is up. I am certain this is because I am living in alignment with my beliefs. I don’t eat enough greens. My fat intake (ie nuts and avocados and vegan marg and mayo) is waay too high. However – binging is less and there are days when my eating is really good and I feel absolutely wonderful. Having said all of that – I feel absolutely wonderful about my diet and my body feels lighter. I ALWAYS feel great about being a vegan because I know I am practicing ahimsa – no harm to any creature. This in itself keeps my risk of cancer waaay down, compared to carnists who care for nothing but their stomach. So – cancer or no – veganism is the right choice for your health, for the planet, to end 10,000 years of oppression of women and # 1 reason – to end the horror and torture and abuse from conceprion that is the life of animals raised for food. Thank You!

  57. Toni February 4, 2016 at 4:01 am - Reply

    I am sure this has been clarified, but Veganism is not about eating organic, unprocessed, unrefined, non GMO etc – Veganism is about living as life, as far as possible, free from animal exploitation, be it for food, entertainment, clothing, decor or anything else. You can be a raw foodist and still eat fish sushi or oysters and p this does not make you vegan. Good article thank you.

  58. Tina March 29, 2016 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    I went vegan and experienced a big improvement in my health. I would venture a guess that not all vegans are eating healthy! There is a Meetless Meet-up group that holds big potluck suppers in our city…and it was a shock to me to go and see the foods people prepared.

    If you continue to fry everything and eat processed soy products, and fake meats and fake cheeses, you may as well sit down to a meal of bacon and sugary cereal.

    Eating plant based needs to go hand in hand with eliminating processed foods…and fried foods. Otherwise the statistics are skewed. Check out the China Study

  59. Val July 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    I was a vegetarian in my 20’s for 3 or 4 years. then I lapsed back to meat-eating for the next 30+ and Now I’ve been a vegan for 5 years but I have to say – Dr. Greger says kids show signs of atherosclerosis when they are 6 years old. I had a lousy diet for many many years. I can’t really expect all of that to disappear because I eat well now. I certainly hope if I come down with something that people will not doubt my diet now and will acknowledge that all the remnants of the past may not have disappeared.

  60. Tamatha August 18, 2016 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more Tina. I believe there is a big difference between being a Vegan and Raw Foodist. I was a Vegan for 8 years, eating semi healthy, and changed to raw food for the past 2 years. I feel way better now, than when I was a Vegan. Speaking from experience and being around other Vegans, most believe if it says “VEGAN” then it’s ok to put it in your body. Mock meats and cheeses are GROSS. Most of those so-called Vegan foods are processed garbage, and in my opinion if your going to eat them, then why not eat meat?

  61. Murph August 23, 2016 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    It appears to be mainly to do with our balance of omega 6 and omega 3 where they are both essential fatty acids but both compete for the same enzymes to function properly in our bodies. Omega 6 causes inflammation which is necessary and omega 3 has a calming effect but these need to be in balance. 1:1 ratio is ideal but currently our modern diet is out of balance with too much Omega 6 at sometimes 10:1 or 20:1 or even greater mainly due to the current swamping of our foods and cooking with the modern scourge of processed vegetable oils which are very high in omega 6, with the exception of olive oil as in the Mediterranean diet. Try real butter or perhaps coconut oil to cook with. Best sources to boost your omega 3 levels are fish, other seafoods and venison.

  62. Varya Simpson November 29, 2016 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    All these posts are years ago — but I assume there are no new studies out about vegan diets and colon cancer. At age 70, and a 40 year vegetarian and last 5 years a vegan, I have my first colonoscopy in 15 years tomorrow morning (the first was completely clear) after nursing a sick friend with terminal colon cancer. Thank you for the words to let me know there is reason for me, although a vegan, to go through this procedure — my grandmother died of colon cancer and watching my friend die with it has been horrific. Wish me luck tomorrow!

  63. Ka veganid surevad - Blog24 April 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm - Reply

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  64. Christina September 7, 2017 at 10:31 am - Reply

    I think it’s common sense. You can be vegan all day. But the fact will never change that we are all born with cancer cells. And it is not just how you eat. We have been exposed to cancer causing chemicals are whole lives, outside of what we are eating. Myself i am Vegan. My father (a baby boomer and Vet) is battaling cancer for the 3rd time. His mother passed of cancer his grandma as well. My mom had breast cancer, her father cancer. And we just found out that no one on my mother’s line but one person has died of natural causes. Every single family in her side gas 1-2 people who have cancer, survived cancer or have died of a weakened immune system in direct cause from cancer. I’m not going to purposely consume anything that is going to make my risk of getting cancer higher. I’ve only been vegan for months. I already feel healthier. But, did I consume meat and products from animals etc. Before ……yes 100% …so is my chance still high? I’m gonna say yes after 37 years yes. At one year yes. A mother who brraasstfeeds her child and consumed animals products has already passed everything through her milk. More importantly through her pregnancy. Factors to weigh in….enviromental, chemical exposure during pregnancy. So many things. So let’s just be realistic. For myself I suffer from fibromyalgia along with several other diseases and auto immune disease….has going vegan helped me……100% I haven’t had pain in 2 months. And ice had chronic pain. My whole life. Anyway it’s not rocket science.

  65. George October 18, 2017 at 11:56 am - Reply

    “Compounds in certain plant foods affect enzymes that allow tumors to spread, for example. So it’s never too late to start eating more healthfully.”

    Ginny Thanks for sharing. A vegan for half a year now. Still studying before strugfling to Support any pros or cons.
    But the aforementioned piece from your article, its a bit confusing.
    I havent yet studied your source study that supports the above..but I wanna ask you sth or tell you where do I find the confusion.

    Firstly its said that compounds in plant foods affect enzymes that allow tumors to spread.
    Question. When say Affect, do you mean that strengthen the enzymes that allow tumors to spread or eliminating that enzymes?

    Secondly,would like to ask.
    So what is the healthy nutrition you speak about later in the previous piece of your post?
    “So it’s never too late to start eating more healthfully” since plant food may affects enzymes that spread tumors????

    Really confusing!

  66. Rajeev Samuel January 16, 2018 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Wasn’t Steve Jobs a vegan?

    Keto is now the way to go. Beta-hydroxybutyrate truly inhibits the Warburg effect. All those plant enzymes that inhibit the Warburg effect like say Oelic acid on the skin of apple probably works best on the skin of the apple instead of inside our bodies.

  67. Jen October 26, 2018 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Beans and other FODMAP foods could be the cause. Stop eating the foods then are making your stomach turn inside out, like I did . For many, healthy foods are like poison to our body, so listen to your body instead of the ideology .I didn’t listen for a long time and was very ill until I stopped all of these “healthy foods “even though I had no allergies. I waisted many years believing whole heartedly in the whole food plant-based diet and just thought all I needed was a little more time maybe another year and I could adapt to eating it . I was just a stubborn idiot !

  68. John December 4, 2018 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    Calcium is easy to get as a vegan. A non issue. B12 you get from supplements or multivitamins,
    Robin Gibb was drinking and using drugs for years. We all know what that does to our bodies.
    Many vegans also have really poor nutritional knowledge.

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