It really saddens me when I hear comments like, “I ate a vegan diet, ran 5 miles a day, was in perfect mental and spiritual health, BUT I STILL GOT CANCER!” It certainly perpetuates the myth, “There is nothing I can do about cancer”, which is one of the four common myths recognized by World Cancer Day. (You can read the other myths here.)
A few years ago, I met a middle aged man in a hospital. He was overweight, a heavy smoker, and had just suffered a near fatal heart attack. While his doctor and his family pleaded with him to make lifestyle changes, the man refused, saying, “My grandfather was over-weight his whole life and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and he lived to be 93!”
When I mention to people that I eat a mainly plant based diet, I often get comments like, “I don’t believe that diet has anything to do with cancer. My great-aunt Ellie ate a medium rare steak every day of her life, and she lived to be 100.”
Do you see something wrong with the logic in these three examples? I am happy for great-aunt Ellie, God bless her, but folks, if you are going to eat a medium rare steak every day of your life, aren’t you begging for a heart attack, stomach cancer, and a host of other illnesses? I would imagine that chubby great-grandad had great genes, if he lived to be 93 while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, but would you want to play cancer roulette with your life? It is a sad fact of life that some people who take excellent care of their bodies get sick anyway, but is that a good reason to “let yourself go” when it comes to healthy living?
Here is what is flawed with the logic: You cannot take a single case study and use it to justify your opinions when it goes against a multitude of scientific studies which suggest otherwise. Sure, there are some cases of people who smoked all of their lives and lived to be a ripe old age without major health complications. However, there are literally millions of cases of people who smoked cigarettes and died from illnesses related to their habit.
I am sure that there is a delicate inter-play of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle choices in the game of cancer roulette. I am equally sure that by practicing a healthy lifestyle, I am removing some of the bullets from that gun. That does not guarantee that the cancer bullet won’t get me in the end, but if it does, I will die knowing that I did my best to unload that gun. What about you? I would love to hear your opinions!