Did the caves work?
By Forrest Whitman
The fact that Angelina Jolie has had a double mastectomy (once she tested positive for a high cancer probability) has been a top news story lately. That’s because so many women do develop breast cancer. New tests can say a lot about cancer probability.
Do we have a “cancer prone” life style?
While Angelina made her decision after a genetic test, people always ask how much life style has to do with actually getting cancer. The anti-cancer advice used to be pretty simple. We were told to eat more fruits and vegetables and get more exercise. Now the links between cancer and almost everything we do take up web page after web page. For instance, gene spliced soy beans confront our bodies with something new and not very nice. But, since more and more basic crops are gene modified, how do we know? Consider pesticides. The evidence continues to pile up that common pesticides used on veggies and fruits are likely cancer causers. Yet, the government continues to increase the amount of Round-Up pesticide that can be put on food crops. That’s just one example. It’s enough to make many of us go looking for organically produced foods.
Finding organic foods is not always easy. The organic versions cost more too. Exercise is always difficult if one lives in the mountains. Snow covers the roads nine months out of the year, so even regular walking isn’t easy. Angelina looks like she gets plenty of exercise, but how would we know? The statistics are pretty clear. We do live a more cancer prone life style than our grandparents did. Once she had that test showing a high probability of cancer, she obviously did the right thing. But, most of us find it harder to decide what that is. Lately I’ve been wondering if the things our grandparents did to combat cancer were really all that futile.
Off to the caves
A favorite cancer preventative and cure in the 19th and early 20th century was the “cave sit.” Cancer sufferers, or folks hoping to avoid cancer, would go and sit in caves reputed to have anti-cancer qualities. Certain caves were very popular. Some of those caves were located in our region, and many of them have been studied in the light of modern physics and chemistry. The caves near Russell Gulch were supposed to be “dry caves,” while the caves in Idaho Springs were “wet caves.” Old photos show people climbing into the caves and apparently spending quite a bit of time there. Today many cancer cures involve directing high-intensity radiation at the affected areas of the body. Since there was low-level radiation in these caves, that may have had some of the same result.
It’s unlikely that many cancer sufferers spent enough time in the caves to be made very sick by the experience. Of course, there were fatalities. The case of Madam Cure, discoverer of so much about radiation, is an example. She died of radiation poisoning after a life time of experimenting with radioactive rocks.
What else was in those caves?
One of the most famous cave complexes in the west lies in and around Carlsbad, New Mexico. Today, scientists are once again testing the walls and waters in some of them and finding some surprising results. There are some highly unusual, even unique, microbes living in those cave rocks. Laboratory testing is showing that some of them are happy to feed on cancer cells. That finding gives pause to researchers.
Could the tradition of “cave sitting” for cancer sufferers, or to ward off cancer, have had something to do with those microbes? At least in the early days that might have made sense. Obviously many of the caves are today quite contaminated by visitation. Those rare and unique microbes are all anaerobic. They do not exist in oxygen, or not for long anyway. Cave visitation adds oxygen to the ambiance. Many of these unique critters die off as a result. In the early days of these caves the rare microbes must still have been around in the air and cave water. Perhaps that’s part of the reason the cave sitting did sometime work.
Skeptics about chemotherapy
There are several books out by authors skeptical of our popular cures for breast cancer. One of the most skeptical writers, Lothar Hirmeise, says it all in his title. He calls his book: “Chemotherapy heals cancer, and the world is flat.” He questions the current conclusion about chemotherapy. He still wants to see the statistics showing that “cures,” like Taxol, work any better than traditional diet, breathing, or mediation techniques. From his point of view, the expense and physical discomfort of chemotherapy are rarely worth it.
Tests for genes that determine breast cancer are worth it – just ask Angelina. But, how many women will spend $3,000 for those tests? Would women be tested more often if we joined most of the rest of the world and had a single-payer health system? Will women be tested under ObamaCare? This is one more example of how “for profit” health care often does not work.
Our grandparents may have been right
Maybe eating right, exercising, and visiting caves would be a good idea. It’s certainly a more pleasant solution.