Eating & Cancer
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Hygienic Review May 1972
Lawrence Lamb, M.D., authors a
syndicated medical newspaper
column that appears in many
newspapers over the land. How
many physicians he has
associated with him in the
production of this column,
I shall not try to guess.
I shall, however, assume that there are a sufficient number of physicians at his
side to give his article the stamp of medical authority. In his column dated
February 6, 1972, Lamb quotes the following words contained in a letter from
one of his readers:
"Dear Dr. Lamb what precautions do doctors take with their families? We never
hear of any of them having cancer."
To this query Lamb makes the following significant reply:
"Dear Reader unfortunately, doctors and doctors' families have just about as
many cancers as other people. I suspect that you are just not acquainted with
that many physicians and their families. There are really no secrets about
Almost anything that a doctor and his family might do, you can do as well. One
thing is regular checkups and I might add that doctors aren't always too good
about this in reference to their own families. Many a doctor's wife has
complained that she needed to make an appointment at the office to find out
what her own medical status was.
Incidentally, doctors as a group are not the most healthy segment of our
population. A good many of them, like other middle class Americans, eat
entirely too much of the wrong foods. Their profession, as such, does not
permit them to enjoy a lot of physical activity."
Aside from tacitly admitting that physicians do not know how to maintain
health in themselves and their families and suffer more disease than many
other groups in our country, Lamb admits that the profession and its families
suffer with cancer about as often, if not more so, as other segments of the
He tries to excuse the profession by saying that they tend to eat too much of
the wrong food and fail to get enough exercise, as though these factors taken
together constitute a healthy program.
Has Lamb joined the ranks of the faddists and quacks? Does overeating on
wrong foods and insufficient exercise cause or aid in causing cancer?
His reply to his reader's question would seem to imply as much. If this is what
it means and if he knows what are right and wrong foods, why does he not
give this information to his readers?
So physicians tend to eat too much, do they? I wonder, by what valid
standard, Dr. Lamb or some other member of his profession determines when
a man has had too much to eat.
When did physicians ever give enough attention to the subject of food and
feeding to cause them to assume that they know how much food is enough.
So they eat the wrong kind of food, do they? What is the right kind of food?
What are the wrong foods? Physicians customarily advise their patients to eat
what agrees with them or to eat what they like.
They commonly tell them not to worry about their diet, a piece of advice that
would be well heeded if by worry they really mean worry.
Unfortunately what they mean is that one should give no intelligent attention
to what one eats, but should just eat as haphazardly and indiscriminately as
his friends and relatives.
When and where did and do physicians study the subject of diet? How do
they know when they are eating the wrong kind of food? If they do know
when they are eating the wrong food, why do they continue to do so?
A few days before we entered World War II, I was in the office of a physician
friend here in San Antonio. His office was on the eleventh floor of the Medical
Arts Building and I arrived just before his office girl brought in his noon lunch
from the cafeteria on the first floor.
On the tray was a stack of white bread, an oversized helping of mashed
potatoes, a liberal dish of cheese and spaghetti, a small dish of spinach, a half
pint of cream and a few other items.
The physician explained to me that he was eating all of that gooey mess of
starch and grease in an effort to gain weight. He was underweight, he said,
and had been trying for some time to gain.
I suggested that a more adequate form of diet would be more likely to enable
him to gain weight than the one he was eating. Before eating this lunch, he
indulged in his customary smoking of a cigarette. I suggested that if he would
give up smoking he would probably gain more readily.
He agreed, saying, "I know I should give them up. I don't know why I don't."
A few days later we entered the war and he attempted to volunteer for medical
service in the army. He had been rejected and I met him as he came from the
army medical center.
He was staggering like a drunken man, although I knew he did not drink. He
fell into my arms and I think would have fallen had I not held him.
To my query: "What is wrong, doctor?" he stated, that he had been turned
down for medical service in the army because of a small hernia. This was not
enough to account for the state he was in. He regained his composure after a
few minutes of talk with me and returned to his office.
A few days later I was informed by his office girl that he had gone away to the
country for a rest. He returned at the end of six weeks and attempted to
resume his practice but after two weeks of this he gave up and retired to his
home, where he died after another three or four weeks of heart disease.
In view of the present thought about fat in causing heart and arterial diseases,
we are constrained to wonder how much his cream drinking to gain weight
had to do with hastening his death. Also, we may add: what was the office of
cigarette smoking in which he had indulged since his student days, in
producing his heart disease.
The heart disease had gone unnoticed and unsuspected until uncovered by
the army medical examiners. How much influence did the emotional state
created by this disclosure have in hastening his death?
When he was told he had heart disease (the exact diagnosis is unknown to
me) it was like a blow on the head, hence his staggering, which I previously
A few years before the death of this physician I had another experience with
him. We were driving in early one morning from attending a birth in a
suburban home. As we drove along he said to me:
"Dr. Shelton, when you feed a woman through her pregnancy, we have no
trouble. The birth is soon over and there are no complications. The woman
rapidly recuperates and she always has plenty of milk for the baby."
Then, he added: "I know nothing about diet." To my question, why don't you
learn something about it? He gave the stock reply: "I don't have time."
A few years passed, and I called him one evening to attend a birth. On the
telephone, he said to me:
"I am sorry, Dr. Shelton, but I'll have to send my assistant. I'd like to come
myself, but I am taking my thirty-third degree in Masonry this evening, and I've
got to be present."
Immediately my mind ran back to the time when he said he did not have time to
study diet. I thought of all the time he had to waste in study, and in ritual
exercise to become a thirty-third degree mason.
I believe the real answer was given to me by a woman physician who lived in
and practiced in Ohio. I met her in New York, where she was attending special
classes in Columbia University.
Our conversation turned to diet and, after saying that she believed that there is
much value in diet, she added that she did not know anything about it. To my
question, why do you not learn something about it, she gave the stock reply:
"I do not have time."
I pointed out to her, that while she was in New York with a lot of spare time on
her hands would be an excellent time to devote some attention to the study of
diet. Then she said: "My profession regards dietetics as quackery and I cannot
afford to get the reputation of being a quack."
Now the answer was out in the open: It is scientific to poison the sick; it is
quackery to attempt to feed them correctly. So long as this is the accepted
view of the profession, there is no hope that they will ever give any intelligent
attention to the subject of food and feeding.
They will continue to overfeed their patients, their families and themselves on
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Article: Eating and Cancer
Hygienic Review May, 1972