- Why I
believe that giving up milk is the key to beating breast cancer...
- Professor Jane Plant is a wife, a mother, and widely
respected scientist, who was made a CBE for her work in geochemistry. When
she was struck by breast cancer in 1987 at the age of 42, her happy and
productive existence seemed destined to fall apart. But despite the disease
recurring a further four times, Jane refused to give in. As she describes
in an inspiring new book, [Your Life In Your Hands] serialised by the Mail
this week, she devised a revolutionary diet and lifestyle programme that
she believes saved her life and can cut the chances of other women falling
prey to the disease.
- Her theory remains a controversial one - but every woman
should read it and make up her own mind. Today, she explains her personal
- I had no alternative but to die or to try to find a cure
for myself. I am a scientist - surely there was a rational explanation
for this cruel illness that affects one in 12 women in the UK?
- I had suffered the loss of one breast, and undergone
radiotherapy. I was now receiving painful chemotherapy, and had been seen
by some of the country's most eminent specialists. But, deep down, I felt
certain I was facing death.
- I had a
loving husband, a beautiful home and two young children to care for. I
desperately wanted to live. Fortunately, this desire drove me to unearth
the facts, some of which were known only to a handful of scientists at
- Anyone who has come into contact with breast cancer will
know that certain risk factors - such as increasing age, early onset of
womanhood, late onset of menopause and a family history of breast cancer
- are completely out of our control. But there are many risk factors,
which we can control easily. These 'controllable' risk factors readily
translate into simple changes that we can all make in our day-to-day lives
to help prevent or treat breast cancer. My message is that even advanced
breast cancer can be overcome because I have done it.
- The first clue to understanding what was promoting my
breast cancer came when my husband Peter, who was also a scientist, arrived
back from working in China while I was being plugged in for a chemotherapy
- He had brought with him cards and letters, as well as
some amazing herbal suppositories, sent by my friends and science colleagues
- The suppositories were sent to me as a cure for breast
cancer. Despite the awfulness of the situation, we both had a good belly
laugh, and I remember saying that this was the treatment for breast cancer
in China, then it was little wonder that Chinese women avoided getting
the disease. Those words echoed in my mind. Why didn't Chinese women get
breast cancer? I had collaborated once with Chinese colleagues on a study
of links between soil chemistry and disease, and I remembered some of the
- The disease was virtually non-existent throughout the
whole country. Only one in 10,000 women in China will die from it, compared
to that terrible figure of one in 12 in Britain and the even grimmer average
of one in 10 across most Western countries.
- It is not just a matter of China being a more rural country,
with less urban pollution. In highly urbanised Hong Kong, the rate rises
to 34 women in every 10,000 but still puts the West to shame.
- The Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have similar
rates. And remember, both cities were attacked with nuclear weapons, so
in addition to the usual pollution-related cancers, one would also expect
to find some radiation-related cases, too. The conclusion we can draw from
these statistics strikes you with some force. If a Western woman were to
move to industrialized, irradiated Hiroshima, she would stash her risk
of contracting breast cancer by half.
- Obviously this is absurd. It seemed obvious to me that
some lifestyle factor not related to pollution, urbanization or the environment
is seriously increasing the Western woman's chance of contracting breast
- I then discovered that whatever causes the huge differences
in breast cancer rates between oriental and Western countries, it isn't
genetic. Scientific research showed that when Chinese or Japanese people
move to the West, within one or two generations their rates of breast cancer
approach those of their host community.
- The same thing happens when oriental people adopt a completely
Western lifestyle in Hong Kong. In fact, the slang name for breast cancer
in China translates as 'Rich Woman's Disease'. This is because, in China,
only the better off can afford to eat what is
- termed 'Hong Kong food'.
- The Chinese describe all Western food, including everything
from ice cream and chocolate bars to spaghetti and feta cheese, as 'Hong
Kong food', because of its availability in the former British colony and
its scarcity, in the past, in mainland China.
- So it made perfect sense to me that whatever was causing
my breast cancer and the shockingly high incidence in this country generally,
it was almost certainly something to do with our better-off, middle-class,
- There is an important point for men here, too. I have
observed in my research that much of the the data about prostate cancer
leads to similar conclusions.
- According to figures from the World Health Organization,
the number of men contracting prostate cancer in rural China is negligible,
only 0.5 men in every 100,000. In England, Scotland and Wales, however,
this figure is 70 times higher.
- Like breast cancer, it is a middle-class disease that
primarily attacks the wealthier and higher socio-economic groups - those
that can afford to eat rich foods.
- I remember saying to my husband-- 'Come on Peter, you
have just come back from China. What is it about the Chinese way of life
that is so different. Why don't they get breast cancer?'
- We decided to utilize our joint scientific backgrounds
and approach it logically. We examined scientific data that pointed us
in the general direction of fats in diets.
- Researchers had discovered in the 1980s that only l4
% of calories in the average Chinese diet were from fat, compared to almost
36% in the West. But the diet I had been living on for years before I contracted
breast cancer was very low in fat and high in fibre.
- Besides, I knew as a scientist that fat intake in adults
has not been shown to increase risk for breast cancer in most investigations
that have followed large groups of women for up to a dozen years.
- Then one day something rather special happened. Peter
and I have worked together so closely over the years that I am not sure
which one of us first said: 'The Chinese don't eat dairy produce!'
- It is hard to explain to a non-scientist the sudden mental
and emotional 'buzz' you get when you know you have had an important insight.
- It's as if you have had a lot of pieces of a jigsaw in
your mind, and suddenly, in a few seconds, they all fall into place and
the whole picture is clear.
- Suddenly I recalled how many Chinese people were physically
unable to tolerate milk, how the Chinese people I had worked with had always
said that milk was only for babies, and how one of my close friends, who
is of Chinese origin, always politely turned down the cheese course at
- I knew of no Chinese people who lived a traditional Chinese
life who ever used cow or other dairy food to feed their babies. The tradition
was to use a wet nurse but never, ever, dairy products.
- Culturally, the Chinese find our Western preoccupation
with milk and milk products very strange. I remember entertaining a large
delegation of Chinese scientists shortly after the ending of the Cultural
Revolution in the 1980s.
- On advice from the Foreign Office, we had asked the caterer
to provide a pudding that contained a lot of ice cream. After inquiring
what the pudding consisted of, all of the Chinese, including their interpreter,
politely but firmly refused to eat it, and they could not be persuaded
to change their minds. At the time we were all delighted and ate extra
- Milk, I discovered, is one of the most common causes
of food allergies.
- Over 70% of the world's population are unable to digest
the milk sugar, lactose, which has led nutritionists to believe that this
is the normal condition for adults, not some sort of deficiency. Perhaps
nature is trying to tell us that we are eating the wrong food.
- Before I had breast cancer for the first time, I had
eaten a lot of dairy produce, such as skimmed milk, low-fat cheese and
yoghurt. I had used it as my main source of protein. I also ate cheap but
lean minced beef, which I now realized was probably often ground-up dairy
- In order to cope with the chemotherapy I received for
my fifth case of cancer, I had been eating organic yoghurts as a way of
helping my digestive tract to recover and repopulate my gut with 'good'
- Recently, I discovered that way back in 1989 yoghurt
had been implicated in ovarian cancer. Dr Daniel Cramer of Harvard
University studied hundreds of women with ovarian cancer, and had them
record in detail what they normally ate. I wish I'd been made aware of
his findings when he had first discovered them.
- Following Peter's and my insight into the Chinese diet,
I decided to give up not just yoghurt but all dairy produce immediately.
Cheese, butter, milk and yoghurt and anything else that contained dairy
produce - it went down the sink or in the rubbish.
- It is surprising how many products, including commercial
soups, biscuits and cakes, contain some form of dairy produce. Even
many proprietary brands of margarine marketed as soya, sunflower or olive
oil spreads can contain dairy produce. I therefore became an avid reader
of the small print on food labels.
- Up to this point, I had been steadfastly measuring the
progress of my fifth cancerous lump with callipers and plotting the results.
Despite all the encouraging comments and positive feedback from my doctors
and nurses, my own precise observations told me the bitter truth.
- My first chemotherapy sessions had produced no effect
- the lump was still the same size.
- Then I eliminated dairy products. Within days, the lump
started to shrink. About two weeks after my second chemotherapy session
and one week after giving up dairy produce, the lump in my neck started
to itch. Then it began to soften and to reduce in size. The line on the
graph, which had shown no change, was now pointing downwards as the tumour
got smaller and smaller.
- And, very significantly, I noted that instead of declining
exponentially (a graceful curve) as cancer is meant to do, the tumour's
decrease in size was plotted on a straight line heading off the bottom
of the graph, indicating a cure, not suppression (or remission) of the
- One Saturday afternoon after about six weeks of excluding
all dairy produce from my diet, I practised an hour of meditation then
felt for what was left of the lump. I couldn't find it.
- Yet I was very experienced at detecting cancerous lumps
- I had discovered all five cancers on my own. I went downstairs and asked
my husband to feel my neck. He could not find any trace of the lump either.
- On the following Thursday I was due to be seen by my
cancer specialist at Charing Cross Hospital in London.
- He examined me thoroughly, especially my neck where the
tumour had been. He was initially bemused and then delighted as he said,
"I cannot find it.' None of my doctors, it appeared, had expected
someone with my type and stage of cancer (which had clearly spread to the
lymph system) to survive, let alone be so hale and hearty.
- My specialist was as overjoyed as I was. When I first
discussed my ideas with him he was understandably skeptical. But I understand
that he now uses maps showing cancer mortality in China in his lectures,
and recommends a non-dairy diet to his cancer patients.
- I now believe that the link between dairy produce and
breast cancer is similar to the link between smoking and lung cancer. I
believe that identifying the link between breast cancer and dairy produce,
and then developing a diet specifically targeted at maintaining the health
of my breast and hormone system, cured me.
- It was difficult for me, as it may be for you, to accept
that a substance as 'natural' as milk might have such ominous health implications.
But I am a living proof that it works and, starting from tomorrow, I shall
reveal the secrets of my revolutionary action plan.
- Extracted from Your Life in Your Hands, by Professor
Jane Plant, to be published by Virgin on June 8 at £16.99. ©
Professor Jane Plant, 2000.
- Jane Plant's conviction that dairy products can cause
cancer arises from the complex chemical makeup of milk. All mature breast
milk, from humans or other mammals, is a medium for transporting hundreds
of chemical components.
- It is a powerful biochemical solution, designed specifically
to provide for the individual needs of young mammals of the same species.
Jane says: "It is not that cow's milk isn't a good food. It is a great
food- for baby cows. It is not intended by nature for consumption by any
species other than baby cows. It is nutritionally different from human
breast milk, containing three times as much protein and far more calcium.'
- Breast milk, like cow's milk, contains chemicals designed
to play an important rote in the development of young cattle. One of these,
insulin growth factor IGF-1,causes cells to divide and reproduce.
- IGF-1 is biologically active in humans, especially during
puberty, when growth is rapid. In young girls it stimulates breast tissue
to grow and, while its levels are high during pregnancy, the hormones prolactin
and oestrogen are also active, enlarging breast tissue and increasing the
production of milk ducts in preparation for breast-feeding.
- Though the concentration and secretions of these hormones
in the blood are small, they exert a powerful effect on the body. All these
hormones are present in cow's milk. IGF-1 is identical in make-up, whether
in human or cow's milk, but its levels are naturally higher in cow's milk.
It is also found in the meat of cows.
- High levels of IGF-1 in humans are thought to be a risk
factor for breast and prostate cancer. A 1998 study of pre-menopausal women
revealed that those with the highest levels of IGF-1 in their bloodstream
ran almost three times the risk of developing breast cancer compared with
women who had low levels. Among women younger than 50, the risk was increased
- Other studies have shown that high circulating levels
of IGF-1 In men are a strong indicator of prostate cancer. Interestingly,
recent measures to improve milk yields have boosted IGF-1 levels in cows.
Could IGF-1 from milk and the meat of dairy animals cause a build-up in
humans, especially over a lifetime, leading to inappropriate cell division?
Though we produce our own IGF-1, could it be that the extra amounts we
ingest from dairy produce actually cause cancer?
- Jane Plant already knew that one way the high-profile
drug tamoxifen, used in the treatment of breast cancer, is thought to work
by lowering circulating levels of IGF-1.
- IGF-1 is not destroyed by pasteurization, but critics
argue that it is destroyed by digestion
- and rendered harmless. Jane believes the main milk protein,
casein, prevents this from happening and that homogenization, which prevents
milk from separating into milk and cream, could further increase the risk
of cancer-promoting hormones and other chemicals reaching the bloodstream.
- She also believes there are other chemicals in cow's
milk that may be responsible for
- sending muddied signals to adult tissue. Could prolactin,
released to stimulate milk production in cows, have a similar effect on
human breast tissue, effectively triggering the same response and causing
cells to become confused, stressed and start making mistakes in replicating
their own DNA? Studies have confirmed that prolactin promotes the growth
of prostate cancer cells in culture.
- Another hormone, oestrogen, considered one of the main
risk factors for breast cancer, is present in milk in minute quantities.
But even low levels of hormones are known to cause severe biological damage.
Microscopic quantities of oestrogen in our rivers are powerful enough to
cause the feminisation of many male species of fish. While oestrogen in
milk may not pose a direct threat to tissues, it may stimulate the expression
of IGF-1, resulting in long-term tumour growth.
- Jane, who has found growing support for her theories
from cancer specialists, stresses
- that she is not setting out to attack more orthodox approaches.
She intends her dietary programme to complement the best therapies available
from conventional medicine, not to replace them.
- Pure But Deadly - Is Milk Potentially Fatal?
- Dairy-free diet and breast/colon cancer
- IOA Archived Discussion Forum May 2000
- Posted By Leslie Dungan on June 19, 2000 at 17:40:01:
- The following review appeared last week in the Irish
- Has anyone out there opinions or experiences relevant
to Prof Plant's approach? British scientist Jane Plant, who believes a
dairy-free diet helped her recover from breast cancer, talks to Katie Donovan
- Tempted by a cream bun, you talk yourself out of it with
thoughts of all that unhealthy fat clogging up your arteries. You opt for
a low-fat yoghurt instead, with skimmed milk in your tea, congratulating
yourself on your sensible self-control. Think again. According to a ground-breaking
new book about breast cancer (which kills over 600 women in Ireland annually),
dairy products, whether low-fat or full cream, should be off everyone's
menu overnight. (They are also culpable with regard to prostate cancer,
so that really means everyone).
- Prof Jane Plant CBE, author of Your Life in Your Hands,
was diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago. She was 42, a successful
geochemist (she is now chief scientist of the British Geological Survey),
and led, she thought, a healthy life. There was no history of breast cancer
in her family. She discovered that "only five to 10 per cent of breast
cancers are the result of inherited genes, and the disease may not always
develop, even in those carrying the mutated gene." Bamboozled by
jargon and frozen with panic, she fell back on her scientific training
to try and figure out how she had developed the disease, and how best to
- She went on the Bristol diet, she had a mastectomy, she
had radiotherapy, she had her ovaries irradiated (to induce menopause and
eliminate oestrogen), she asked questions and did lots of research. To
- By the time of the cancer's fifth recurrence (it spread
into the lymph), she was given a course of chemotherapy and three months
to live. She had an egg-sized tumour on the side of her neck.
- Brainstorming one night with her fellow scientist husband
about why, in the West, one in 10 women get breast cancer (one in 14 in
Ireland), while in China it's only one woman in 10,000, the pair came up
with the simple answer: Chinese people don't eat dairy products.
- Plant eliminated all dairy products (including goat and
sheep) from her diet. Six weeks later, the tumour had disappeared.
- When I meet her she is a youthful-looking woman in her
mid-fifties, quaffing mint tea and eating a tuna sandwich (no butter or
mayonnaise). She has stayed on her dairy-free diet and has remained clear
- Giving up dairy products was only part of a healthy regimen
she had been following throughout her cancer, including taking folic acid
and zinc supplements, drinking filtered water and never consuming anything
that had been packaged in plastic (phthalates, harmful carcinogenic chemicals,
leak from soft plastic into food).
- In spite of her best efforts it was only after she gave
up all dairy products that the cancer disappeared. Sixty-three other women
who had breast cancer and who came to her for advice, also recovered after
giving up dairy products.
- So how, I ask, can dairy products-- beloved of both the
Irish and British alike, not to mention the Americans whose diet is 40
per cent dairy-- have such a lethal effect? "Milk is designed
as the perfect food for newborn animals. They can't eat ordinary food,
they are dependent on milk to keep development and cell differentiation
going. But milk contains a chemical-- insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1
-- which girls have naturally as teenagers
- to help their breasts develop. This chemical-- which
is designed to stimulate cell growth-- can send the wrong signal to adult
- She quotes studies in the US and Canada in 1998 which
found that pre-menopausal women with the highest IGF-1 concentration in
their blood had a far higher risk of developing breast cancer (similar
studies have found a link between IGF-1 and prostate cancer). The drug
Tamoxifen, prescribed for women with breast cancer, is thought to work
by reducing circulating IGF-1 levels.
- "Over 70 per cent of the world's population are
unable to digest the milk sugar, lactose," she observes. "Lactose
intolerance may be nature's early warning system: perhaps nature is trying
to tell us that we're eating the wrong food." Homogenization apparently
only enables cancer-producing chemicals to reach the bloodstream quicker.
- Plant has done her homework: "Epidemiological studies
have indicated a positive correlation between dairy product consumption
and breast cancer risk going back two decades. Studies have found an increase
in breast cancer risk among women who consumed milk (especially whole milk)
- In 1977 scientists examining the incidence of breast
cancer in Japan found "a significant increase in both the consumption
of dairy products and the occurrence of breast cancer in urban areas".
- She quotes more research to suggest that "free oestrogens"--
found in commercial pasteurized whole cow's milk and in skimmed milk--
may stimulate expression of IGF-1 resulting in "indirect long-term
- She lists dioxins and other damaging environmental chemicals,
some of them carcinogenic, which are often fat soluble and end up "particularly
concentrated" in milk.
- As for the argument that we need dairy products because
they contain calcium, Plant quotes the World Health Organization's finding
that countries which have low intakes of calcium do not have an increased
incidence of osteoporosis: "Scientific studies into calcium absorption
have shown that only 18 to 36 per cent of the calcium in milk is taken
up by the body."
- Now that we're convinced, what should we be eating instead?
Plant recommends soya milk, herbal tea, humous, tofu, nuts and seeds, non-farmed
fish, organic eggs and lean meat (not minced beef, which tends to be dairy
cow) and plenty of fresh organic fruit and vegetables (in salads, juiced,
or lightly steamed).
- But how can the average woman afford the time and energy
it takes to source and prepare such food? "Your priority should be
good food, not glop," she stresses. "Put organic food first.
Your health is more important than a new car. Anyway, I don't find it too
costly-- after all, I don't buy any processed food, which is very expensive."
- Her husband and two children have no problem following
her diet. And although she travels a lot for her job, she finds that she
is able to manage-- she includes many tips in her book about what to bring
with you on a trip (dried soya milk, herbal tea bags, kelp tablets for
- She is about to start writing a new book, a guide for
busy women who want to stay healthy.
- She advocates thorough and frequent self-examination
of your breasts, and, if you do develop breast cancer, self-empowerment
by working with your doctor "as a partner,
- not as a victim".
- She is not a fan of the Louise Hay You Can Heal Your
Life philosophy: "I do believe in positive thinking, but I'm also
a scientist and I wanted a rational explanation. I have friends with diseases
like MS who have read Hay's books and feel guilty because they can't adapt
their mental attitude; or, if they have adapted, and the disease doesn't
go away, they become distressed."
- Plant, who is an advocate of acupuncture, has varying
opinions of alternative therapies. She is suspicious of aromatherapy, found
visualization didn't work, but took much comfort from cognitive therapy
and hypnotherapy (both of which helped her to reduce the stress and anxiety
caused by having cancer).
- Overall, however, it was her professional research as
a geochemist into the links between disease and trace elements (such as
selenium) in the environment in China and Korea that led to her insight
about the role of dairy produce in her cancer. She finds the medical profession
particularly shortsighted about the influence of environmental factors--
such as pollution and industrialization-- on disease: "I think public
health has done a lot for the elimination of infectious diseases, but looking
at the environment and nutrition could do the same for a lot of degenerative
- Plant started writing Your Life in Your Hands for her
daughter Emma (now 25). Emma's teen years were dominated by the fear that
her mother was going to die: "The book's original title was What
I Want My Daughter to Know," recalls Plant. "The 63 women with
breast cancer who followed my diet and survived their cancer encouraged
me to publish the book. I was reluctant at first-- I knew I'd get flak
for it, because science is an
- adversarial process.
- But morally, I felt if I had done the research and I
had the information, I should share it with others. Men and women have
the right to know what I know, and to draw their own
- Your Life in Your Hands by Jane Plant is published by
Virgin at £16.99 in UK
- Leslie Dungan,