Updated: 2/17/2019, Marc Woodard
Years ago I was motivated to learn more about Pancreatic Cancer after hearing of Patrick Swayze’s diagnosis. Eighteen years earlier I recalled how shocked I was to hear about Michael Landon’s death from the same type of cancer in 1991. And Steve Jobs in 2011. I thought “what a loss of such talented and productive people.”
These events highlighted the insidious nature of cancer in general. But especially brought national attention to pancreatic cancer. I wondered, “was the cause of cancer brought about by cultural-geographic, genetic, environment and/or a combination of various lifestyle risk factors.”
Initially when I wrote on this topic in 2009, I wasn’t able to deduce the exact cause that led to Swayze and Landon’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. However today I feel the cause has narrowed down to a handful of likely possibilities relevant to behavior, habits and environmental health risk factors.
After Jobs death I became more aware of certain habits, genetic predisposition, stress, diet and environment that may hold the answers to identifying likely causes of cancer in general. Today I’m more confident in saying, “pancreatic cancer is ‘likely’ related to a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors, whereas risk dramatically increases when genetically predisposed to acquire it.”
Steve Jobs lifestyle was different from the two actors [he wasn’t a smoker or drinker]. But had a dietary obsession with certain foods. Aside from this distinction all three of them lived in a dense area population… Los Angeles California, “the #1 cancer producing state (American Cancer Society, 2017).” These famous people also appeared to be Type-A personalities [workaholics, competitive drivers and short fused, etc.,]. Type-A people are more likely to develop obsessive behaviors and habits to cope with stress which doubles the risk of coronary heart disease.
“Apparent links between psychological stress and cancer could arise in several ways. For example, people under stress may develop certain behaviors, such as smoking, overeating, or drinking alcohol, which increase a person’s risk for cancer [National Cancer Institute, 2017].”
Next I wanted to know how could anyone prevent, or remit cancer naturally from the body once it took hold?
First I needed to know a little more about these famous people lifestyles and could they have done anything different to prevent or change their cancer story?
First, we’ll look at the two Hollywood legends to see what habits they had in common. Then compare lifestyles with Steve Jobs – Man behind Apple computers and iPhone.
Thereafter, review past and current national cancer statistics to draw a conclusion based on likely factors that contributed to their cancer and shortened lifespans.
Like most of you I was an avid follower and admirer of Michael Landon. My favorite childhood shows were Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven series.
Michael Landon was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma at the age of 54 – on 5 April 1991 and immediately underwent chemo therapy. His cancer had spread to his liver at first causing stomach cramps. Thereafter his pancreatic cancer was diagnosed 7 weeks later. The cancer became inoperable due to spreading within the liver and lymph nodes. Only 1% of patients with a metastasized cancer combination like this survive a five year period. He died in Malibu, CA on 1 July 1991. It was reported he drank heavily and had a four pack per day smoking habit.
“Pancreatic cancer is one of the faster spreading cancers; only about 4% of patients can expect to survive five years after their diagnosis (Park 2011).”
I also followed Hollywood legend Patrick Swazye. Three movies and one series in particular that memorialize his acting and physical abilities, “Dirty Dancing, Next of Kin, Roadhouse and the Beast series.” Swayze was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in March 2008 and underwent chemo therapy with new experimental drugs (vatalanib/gemcitabine) to shrink the tumor and prevent the development of new blood vessels that would otherwise nourish it.
“He’s a strong guy, and he’s got a great attitude,” says Ron Wise, a Cedars-Sinai spokesman, “in my experience, that has a lot to do with how things go.” Patrick Swayze’s biggest regret was his smoking which he continued to do until his death. Doctor’s agreed, even if he quit at the time of diagnosis would have no bearing on his outcome …
After more than a year of cancer, Swazye completed 13 episodes of the beast without pain medication. Swayze Died, 14 Sept 2009 at the age of 57. The cancer ultimately spread to his liver. His life expectancy after diagnosis was 5 months. He lived 20 months after diagnosis.
Steve Jobs founder of Apple Computer and arguably one of the most brilliant innovators and businessmen of all time had an uncommon form of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in Oct 2003 (Park 2011).
It was reported throughout his life he was a vegan with an addictive and obsessive fructose [fruit] habit that rarely included the macro-nutrient protein [exception – he infrequently ate sushi and eel]. His food obsessions often limited him to apples, carrots, smoothies and fruit drinks for extended periods of time.
[He named the company after his fondness for apples.
“Research published in the November 2007 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded there was “evidence for a greater pancreatic cancer risk with a high intake of fruit and juices but not with a high intake of sodas.”
“Although the UCLA findings are preliminary and more research needs to be done, the Reuters headline “Cancer Cells Slurp Up Fructose” is fair warning to all of us addicted to fruit and fruit juices (Daniel 2012).”
It was also reported he smoked marijuana and used LSD during his college years. It is likely he smoked weed during his battle with prostate cancer. This was not acknowledged by Jobs, but suspect by colleagues. Whether these things had anything to do with his cancer, I could not make that connection.
Nine months after diagnosis, Jobs underwent surgery to remove a tumor. In 2009 he underwent a liver transplant, a procedure appropriate for only a small number of patients with this type of rare pancreatic cancer. On October 5, 2011, due to complications from a relapse of his previously treated islet-cell – neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer … at the age of 56, Jobs died at his Palo Alto, California home around 3 p.m. (PDT).
There was an Interesting Self-Treatment Decisions Made by Jobs – He postponed surgery to remove a neuroendocrine tumor against his doctors advisement. Instead his controlling obsessions, including bazaar dietary habits led to self-treatment using alternative medicines. Had he chose to go through surgery 9 months earlier – it is likely the cancer would’ve been removed [as in other similar cases – Early removal of this type of cancerous tumor often cured the cancer]. His form of cancer was not as deadly or aggressive as the most common form.
Not until the cancer reached the late stage 9 months later did he agree to use conventional treatment to stop it from spreading. Unfortunately by this time the cancer had spread to other surrounding tissues. He also never quit his obsessive high fructose dietary habit after diagnosis. Even after being warned by his personal physician – the body would have a better chance of fighting cancer by adding more protein to the diet – THIS was the opinion of medical experts. Many believe Jobs would still be alive today if he had the surgery and chemotherapy and radiotherapy immediately after diagnosis. For whatever reason, Jobs believed alternative medicines was his best bet to beat cancer.
Later in his autobiography, it is mentioned he regretted the decision to self-treat his cancer.
Can location be a cancer causing factor?
I believe “unhealthy lifestyle factors which include environment increases the risk of DNA gene string mutation and cancer cell growth and metastasis.”
State Cancer Statistics 2002 – 2017
State cancer statistics show an increasing and concerning rise in cancer cases over the last 17 years. Note: Per Capita [population] as a percentage of state cancer cases have not been evaluated within this article.
States with highest cancer population diagnosis during year 2000 – (California 113,200), Florida (88,100), Texas (76,100), NY (81,500), US diagnosed “All” Cancer Totals – 1,220,100
States with highest cancer diagnosis during year 2008 – (California 156,530), Florida (101,920), Texas (96,320), NY (97,130), US diagnosed “All” Cancer Totals – 1,437,180.
States with highest cancer diagnosis during year 2017 – (California 176.140), Florida (124,740), Texas (116,200), NY (107,530), US diagnosed “All” Cancer Totals – 1,688,780.
“In 2017, there will be an estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the US (American Cancer Society, 2017).” Get All Cancer Stats Now.
Comparing 2009 – 2017 Pancreatic Diagnosis and Cancer Deaths
Pancreatic Cancer estimates in 2009 ~42,700 people will be diagnosed resulting in ~35,420 deaths will result making it the fourth deadliest cancer (American Cancer Society).
Pancreatic Cancer estimate in 2017 ~53,670 people will be diagnosed resulting in ~43,090 deaths will result making it the fourth deadliest cancer (American Cancer Society). Deaths are evenly split between male and female. See Pancreas Statistics at a Glance
Pancreatic Cancer Risk factors,
“Factors that may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer include:
Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), Diabetes, Family history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk, including a BRCA2 gene mutation, Lynch syndrome and familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome
Family history of pancreatic cancer, Smoking, Obesity, Older age, as most people are diagnosed after age 65.
A large study demonstrated that the combination of smoking, long-standing diabetes and a poor diet increases the risk of pancreatic cancer beyond the risk of any one of these factors alone (Mayo Clinic, 2017).”
It’s interesting to make comparisons of national cancer statistics to see if research and treatment progression has been made in reducing cancer cases nationally – Most specifically pancreatic cancer deaths.
Eight years later after my first article on this topic, I find it alarming – medical science has not identified the exact physiological cause of pancreatic cancer, or any other form of cancer for that matter. All types of cancer are on the rise. However medical research is narrowing down connected lifestyle, genetic, environment and other illness causing identifiers that increase risk.
Hawaii places 9th in the lowest producing cancer states. Hawaii is also known to have a consistent 73-80 degree days year round.
I believe, “anyone can improve the odds of activating cancer cells within the body – even if genetically predisposed. Simply by making better lifestyle and environmental choices.T
CONSUMER HEALTHY LIFESTYLE KNOWLEDGE IS POWERFUL – Apply Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Reduce Cancer Risk
- The four states with the highest cancer cases increased significantly from 2002-2017.
- Pancreatic Cancer is still the 4th deadliest cancer.
- National Cancer cases are on the rise.
- No one [male/female] is immune from pancreatic cancer, or any cancer for that matter.
- Genetic predisposition [BRCA2 gene mutation]and Lynch syndrome increases cancer risk.
- Prevent or Manage diabetes – it increases cancer risk.
- A high body mole-count may be symptomatic of gene mutated cells. See a dermatologist or oncologist.
- Bad cancer causing habits: alcohol, smoking, restricted-fad diet and sedentary lifestyle.
- Avoid high fructose diet as research has exposed a likely cancer connection.
- Balanced diet include all 3 macro-nutrients: proteins, carbs and fats to nourish the body.
- If you have a dietary obsession with any food(s) or fads, seek behavioral therapy.
- There are no conclusive studies that show pancreatic cancer is caused by any specific food type [high-fructose diets are suspect].
- There are studies that show processed food chemicals have cancer causing agents.
- Unhealthy relationships & environment alter hormone & Cellular DNA & function and cause physiological stress which can cultivate cancer cells.
- Sedentary lifestyle often leads to obesity, diabetes and heart disease and known to increase cancer risk.
- Low-impact aerobic exercise at minimum is needed to sustain healthy immune system and remove toxins that would otherwise nourish cancer cells.
- Whole foods diet reduces processed food chemical intake and cancer risk.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, especially hyper-palatable sodas, syrup & coffee creamers.
- Bad air environments have high Pro-Oxidants [toxic CO pollutants] – Dense city development with high smog levels is toxic to respiratory-immune systems.
- Barbecue – high temp smoke and char temps – are known to be carcinogenic.
- High-energy radiation from the sun, x-rays, gamma rays, alpha particles, beta particles, and neutrons, can damage DNA and cause cancer.
- Breast cancer tops Prostate Cancer in top 4 cancer states by ~135-190%.
- Melanoma cancer cases is higher in top 4 cancer states, which are also sunshine states.
- If cancer runs in family within any of the top 4 cancer states – location may be a factor.
- If diagnosed with cancer the best odds of beating it – aggressive surgery regardless of stage of cancer – seek chemotherapy and radiotherapy upon medical recommendation.
- 10 Lowest-Cancer Producing States in Order: Wyoming (1), Dist. of Columbia (2), Alaska (3), Vermont (4), North Dakota (5), South Dakota (6), Delaware (7), Rhode Island (8), Montana (9), Hawaii (10). Note: Per Capita [population] as a percentage of state cancer cases have not been evaluated within this article.
MOST RECENT PROSTATE CANCER MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
“One huge step forward was the use of radiation to reduce the impact of prostate cancer that spreads to bones. Another was the development of better diagnostics, including PSA tests, which mean that most men are diagnosed while their prostate cancer is still curable (Elster 2017).”
“Bottom line: There is no definite technique to prevent pancreas cancer. However, not smoking, exercising, and eating a proper diet is the best lifestyle choice for overall health (WebMD, 2017).”
Moderation in everything we do is key to healthy longevity, living life to the fullest and staying well.
Good Health to You and Your Family.
- American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Statistics. 2017 American Cancer Society, Inc. https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics.html
- American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2017. 2017 American Cancer Society, Inc. https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2017.html
- Bang Show Biz. Patrick Swayze’s Biggest Regret Was Not Having Kids. Sept 22, 2009. 2017 – Livingly Media, Inc. Zimbio Entertainment.
- Brownstein, Joseph. Swayze: Outlived Most With Pancreatic Cancer. Sept. 16, 2009. World Wide Web. ABC News. 2017.
- Daniel, Kaayla T. Ph.D., C.C.N. iVegetarian: The High Fructose Diet of Steve Jobs. Jan 19, 2012. Psychology Today. 1991-2017 Sussex Publishers, LLC | HealthProfs.com © 2002-2017 Sussex Directories, Inc. World Wide Web 8/12/2017.
- Mann, Denise. Patrick Swayze Dies of Pancreatic Cancer. Sept 15, 2009. 2005 – 2017 WebMD, LLC.
- Mayo Clinic. 2017. Pancreatic Cancer. 1998-2017 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cancer/symptoms-causes/dxc-20268506
- Michael Landon. Broken Permalink. 2009. 11 Aug 2017. http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20114945,00.html)
- Michael Landon. Broken Permalink. 2009. 11 Aug 2017. http://www.hollywoodusa.co.uk/HillsideObituaries/michaellandon.htm
- MirrorAthlete Articles Repository.
- Naomi Elster. Cancer treatment: sorting the good news from the hype. 14 Aug 2017. theguardian, 2017.
- Park, Alice. The Pancreatic Cancer that Killed Steve Jobs. 5 Oct 2011. Time. 2017 Time Inc.
- WebMD. 2017. Pancreatic Cancer Diet and Prevention. 2005 – 2017 WebMD, LLC.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2019 Copyright. All rights reserved, MirrorAthlete Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.