A recent viral email scam circulated and credited Johns Hopkins University as its source, stating that there was a new “cancer update,” and claimed that doing something as simple as converting to a vegan diet would starve cancer cells. It may have been believed because it had fluid tips that "you are almost positive you’ve heard somewhere, from someone, or even read before."
The email goes on to state that everyone has cancer cells in their bodies that may become active approximately six to eight times in a person’s lifetime. It suggests that “when doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.” But according to Johns Hopkins response, “Cancer is a genetic disease resulting from a variety of mutations and alterations either inherited from our parents or, more commonly, acquired over time due to environmental exposures and behaviors, such as smoking and poor diet. These alterations turn off important cell growth regulators allowing cells to continually divide unchecked,” explains Luis Diaz, a clinician-scientist at the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics.
The email continues to give credit to the immune system’s superb ability to “destroy (cancer cells) and prevent from multiplying and forming tumors.” Immune system health is no guarantee if a person has poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking, and stress – the average American routine; in fact, “The immune system simply does not recognize cancer. In its complexity, the cancer cell has learned to disguise itself to the immune system as a normal cell." Infected cells send out danger signals setting the immune system in action. Cancer cells do not, explains Elizabeth Jaffee, co-director of cancer immunology and a leading expert on cancer and the immune system, as written in the Hopkins article.
“When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.” Yet dietary habits and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, contribute to the development of many human cancers, says Kimmel Cancer Center director William Nelson. "Our experts recommend a balanced diet as a way of reducing cancer risk. In terms of supplements, Nelson points out that while they may help mediate vitamin deficiencies, taking doses above what the body needs provides no added benefit.”