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Monday, June 25, 2012

Cancer cure and ineptitude.

Alright folks, I know I had 3 posts out the week before, and then none last week.  I'm trying to become more regular on writing these, but part of my problem is that I've got notebooks full of topics I want to talk about, but researching all of them takes a lot of time.  That being said, I appreciate the comment on the creation museum post.  And as always, if you have an opinion or a comment, feel free to leave on.  I've got a couple of short items today, and one of them relates back to probably every post I'll ever make on here, unless they ruin more of my childhood with live action movies on cartoons from the 80's.

First of, I've seen a heading pop up on my facebook page lately.  Basically it states "B17-Cancer Killer!"  I read a bit of it and started thinking "Crap Kevin Trudeau is doing it again."  Trudeau is a charlatan and huckster that has books out on "natural cures they don't want you to know about"  and now a free money one.  During his natural cure one, he implied he had been a medical professional, and the free money one he says he was a Wall Street insider.   His health books have caused so many problems for people that he's been banned from appearing on television to hock his shit.  I don't think he's been charged with anything, but he probably should be.  (I'll probably talk more about him in the next post) B17 is being touted as a B vitamin that can cure cancer.  First of all, it's actually derived from the bitter almond, apricots, and black cherrys.  What it actually is is called an Amygdalin.  This chemical substance, when ingested, is acted on by enzymes in the gut that produce cyanide.  In large enough amounts, I guess it would cure cancer, because death tends to cure almost everything, up to and including the messy problem of living.  There is a synthetic, non-lethal form used in food preservation, but the natural form is lethal.  The idea of it treating cancer has been around since the 1840's, but in 1920, it was deemed too lethal in the U.S.  and nearly 100 years later, to paraphrase the girl from poltergeist, "It's Baaack".  In 2006, there were more clinical trials.  In a brief synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia,

A 2006 systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded: "The claim that [l]aetrile has beneficial effects for cancer patients is not supported by data from controlled clinical trials. This systematic review has clearly identified the need for randomized or controlled clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of [l]aetrile or amygdalin for cancer treatment."[31] Given the lack of evidence, laetrile has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[15]
The U.S. National Institutes of Health evaluated the evidence separately and concluded that clinical trials of amgydalin showed little or no effect against cancer.[23] For example, a 1982 trial of 175 patients found that tumor size had increased in all but one patient.[32] The authors reported that "the hazards of amygdalin therapy were evidenced in several patients by symptoms of cyanide toxicity or by blood cyanide levels approaching the lethal range."[7]
The study concluded "Patients exposed to this agent should be instructed about the danger of cyanide poisoning, and their blood cyanide levels should be carefully monitored. Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment".

After multiple trials, this has been shown not to work.  Much like homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and bi-partisan politics, people continue to believe in this.  The most commonly given reason is "Big pharma doesn't want us to know about it because they would lose money."  This is basically a conspiracy theory with industry behind it instead of a shadowy government.  The other problem is that cancer is not 1 single disease.  There are dozens of different types of cancer, some caused by viruses, some by genetics, and some by environmental issues.  Just because of the many causes, it is highly improbable (remember, nothing is impossible, just extremely unlikely) that there will ever be a single cure for anything, short of Death.

The other topic I wanted to touch on, like I said relates to all the other posts, except the one about the failure of The  History and Discovery channels.  I am a certified teacher currently seeking employment as a teacher in either Agriculture or Biology.  I have several friends that are currently teachers.  One of these people was recently let go so that the school could hire someone that was also a coach.  He received excellent evaluations and commendations, yet they let him go.  This is becoming a more common problem in Education.  I understand that most schools are under financial pressures and high school sports programs are the primary source of income, outside of the federal government.  As a (hopefully) science teacher, I do believe that science is the future of our ability to compete with other countries as global competition continues to escalate.  When schools put a higher priority on sports and decrease funding for the arts and science, it seems to be a precursor to the direction that our country is heading.  Couple this with the whole "teach the controversy" line of thought with climate change and evolution, our future scientists are going to be sorely lacking in the next decade.  And just for the record, there is no controversy on these.  There is a solid consensus concerning evolution and climate change, it is primarily the religious right that is pushing this as a controversy. 

If the spelling isn't up to my usual standards, it's because the spell-check either isn't working, or I kinda killed it on the last couple of posts. Until next time, thank you for reading, and remember, every time you respond in the comments, and tell your friends if you like it, you get double cool points for the next month.  These are non-transferable, non-negotiable, and not valid as legal tender in any state that has a vowel in the continental U.S.  I'll leave you with a quote that I feel is pretty relevant.

"Science is the thing that's going to save us!" ---George Hrab

Thanks again
The Skeptical Okie


  1. Cyanide, believe it or not, is a dietary expectation within biologically rational quantities. Cyanide within the body is transformed into another substance called, 'thiocyanate'. Sickle cell anemia is a thiocyanate deficiency disease. Do you see what I'm getting at? Hundreds of foods we consume daily contain dietary cyanide. Provided that we don't overwhelm our natural capacities to process it safely, there is no danger. Cyanide is not an accumulative toxin.

    That said, it is totally possible to eat too many apricot kernels and feel quite unwell as a result, but a fatal dose is a very large quantity and highly unlikely. So unlikely, in fact, that it has never been medically reported in a documented, verifiable way. That is a fact that should surprise anyone vaguely familiar with this controversy.

    Whether or not apricot kernels work is somewhat irrelevant. What is relevant is that people believe that they work and thousands have reported benefit and cure from their use. Yes, this information is anecdotal... who cares. Placebo or not, if apricot kernels provide hope under not-so-hopeful circumstances, their use is justified. No one is going to die from eating apricot kernels. At worst, they might be admitted to hospital, where they'll be treated with an antidote that is 100% effective. At best, the apricot kernels will stop the cancer from spreading, which is their number one function. When the cancer is stopped in its tracks, the immune system has a chance to tackle the beast head to head. Unfortunately, conventional treatment destroys the immune system and it is typically only the younger, more resilient of patients who will overcome this scenario.

    If willing, have a read of my own blog at

  2. I understand that cyanide, as well as arsenic and other common toxins are actually part of a normal diet. It is just that the amounts that some practioners suggest, and I've heard up to 5 pits an hour 6-10 times a day, can approach lethal levels. And I agree that there hasn't been a verifiable case of death caused by overconsumption, and most of the ones I have been able to find are anecdotal. The closest I could find is a case in 1998 in I believe Great Britain. So far, most tests concerning this have come back as inconclusive. When they tested it on rats, they found that rats are much less sensitive to cyanide than humans are. The main problem that I have with treating cancer with amygdalin is that some people will end the treatments prescribed by their doctors in favor of eating bitter apricot pits, possibly decreasing their chances at survival, especially if are immuno-comprimised, which can decrease what a lethal dose may be. If the placebo effect helps them cope with it, I'm actually fine with that, as long as they still follow their doctors advice and consume amygdalin in a sensible manner. I've had great results using the placebo effect, so I know how powerful it can be. I believe that more testing should be done, both on the benefits and the side effects before anything, natural cure or western medicine, should be touted as a cancer cure. And I did have a look at your blog, and I feel that your points are valid. I did not intend for my post to come across as being completely against bitter apricots, just that most of the research that I found stated that it appears to mostly be a placebo effect, and that more research is needed. Thanks for the comment, and you've given me some more food for thought. And no, I did not intend for that to be a pun. My puns are normally worse than that. thanks again.

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