Common Sense, Clarity and Wellness Warrior Lies

As long-time readers know, I take issue with a number of high-profile “wellness warriors” and anti-science advocates who claim to offer “natural,” “holistic,” or simply “alternative” treatments that can cure cancer or prevent it entirely. Chief among these are Chris Wark and Ty Bollinger, two people with absolutely no scientific or medical training and tons of bad advice. They are part of a large network of disreputable and largely discredited hucksters, many of whom get by on their claims by offering just the tiniest shred of truth mixed in with their hyperbole and insidious messages. They thrive in our increasingly anti-intellectual culture, where headlines and sound bytes sway their customers and their “fan base” into believing that there is substance to their messages. This is why, more than ever, it is essential to take a critical approach to all the medical headlines that are presented, and especially those making extraordinary claims.

The well-established and professionally vetted website, Healthline, has a very good primer on the subject of spotting fake medical news. It could hardly be more topical. There is nary a day that goes by when some website or other isn’t making absurd claims about the latest health craze or danger. Whether it is bloating the risks of GMO foods or misrepresenting the cancer risk from eating red or processed meat, there are more sources out there in the ether intent upon cherry picking data or simply removing it from context in order to sell their point than there are serious outlets for the reporting of science news. Part of the problem with this is that science news isn’t usually considered very sexy or commercial, but a bigger problem is that it is generally difficult for most people to fully understand.

And capitalizing on that, we have opportunists like Chris Wark, a self-proclaimed guru on defeating cancer without chemotherapy. Duly note, of course, that Mr. Wark was cured through surgical intervention and, while chemotherapy was recommended as an adjunctive treatment to lower the risk of future metastasis, there was no indication that he had any actual, existing metastases that needed treatment. To put it bluntly, he was one of the lucky colon cancer patients who had it all taken out without any recurrence. This had nothing to do with whether or not he received chemotherapy, and there is no way of knowing how he would have responded to such treatment or whether his “lifestyle” choices have had any bearing whatsoever on his post-surgical health.

Wark rose to prominence making claims that he “cured” his cancer by juicing carrots. He has largely dropped that line, no doubt because his story has been so heavily debunked over the years, but when I was diagnosed in 2014 it was still being presented to me on a regular basis as an alternative for treatment — why do chemo if you can just juice? Looking into his story took about fifteen minutes to see all the holes and intentional misrepresentation, though it was hard to doubt his sincerity until the plethora of affiliate links on his old web site became clear. I don’t begrudge a blogger for trying to make a living, but hawking juicing machines and quack remedies under the guise of offering free advice to help fellow patients was beyond disingenuous. Still, the nature of Wark’s enterprise intrigued me, and so I eventually signed up for his newsletter.

Here is a screenshot of a recent one, copyrighted by Mr. Wark, of course, as all his materials are; I present it here as evidence of his malfeasance.

Wellness Expert Chris Wark Lies Again

The key to this email is the claim that “scientific proof” exists for chemotherapy causing breast cancer to spread. Note the sentence: “we have further scientific proof that the treatment is to blame.” This statement, aside from being completely at odds with the study it pretends to reference, is downright evil.

Just by pushing the false narrative that mainstream medical treatment is more dangerous than the cancer itself, a common theme among Wark’s posts and those with whom he colludes, he is jeopardizing the health of patients who might take what he says and believe it because they simply do not know better. Wark presents himself (and does so very well) as an expert in the arena of cancer care. Despite numerous legal disclaimers throughout his site that make it clear he has no training, skill, or valid advice to offer from a medical perspective, intelligent people still manage to take him seriously because of the clever way in which he plays to their confirmation bias and fears.

Until we, as a group of patients, caregivers, and cancer advocates, can unify in our will to vet the information we share and actively fight ignorance, this sort of divisive rhetoric will quell progress in the greater cancer narrative. I ask that everyone take the time to consider whether they are utilizing their best critical thinking about new information that they hear, especially when the claims are extraordinary, before choosing to outright believe something simply because it fits their world view. We should be open to discussing new and radical ideas, but we should also demand that such ideas are presented in an honest and accurate fashion.

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2 thoughts on “Common Sense, Clarity and Wellness Warrior Lies

  1. I have two ground glass nodules on my left lung (one 3mm and one 1mm) and a possible 1mm on my right that were found by accident. They have been stable for a year, but I know that can change still. I have done a lot of research and some of it has been on what Chris Wark says. While I would never dissuade anyone from conventional treatment, I may have it myself someday. There is scientific research that backs up some of what he is saying. One, IV vitamin c is currently being tested in an Iowa University study that started in January on lung and brain cancer patients. It is being used concurrently with chemo. Many of the dietary agents have been shown to not only strengthen and speed up tumor shrinkage when used in conjunction, it also lessens the side effects of chemo and radiation. In one study on PubMed they talk about dietary agents against lung cancer. I have attached the link. Cruciferous vegetables were power houses against the onset, number of tumors, and metastasis of lung cancer. Isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, and N-acetyl cysteine (a modified form of a natural occurring amino acid given to patients with other lung diseases) all worked well in conjunction. There are many other dietary agents in the article. I have included the link to it. But these in conjunction with traditional treatments definitely couldn’t hurt. There are many other studies on food and cancer. The University of Illinois did a study in vitro on grapes and cancer with promising results, not only chemopreventive, but to start apoptosis. You just have to google it. The study below lists fisetin which is one of many chemopreventive things found in grapes, but has the highest concentration in strawberries. They compared it’s ability to inhibit tumor growth to low-dose cyclophosphamide. The pomegranate listed in the study is the skin of the fruit. And of course EGCG (green tea) was effective, but there have been numerous studies showing this. It said this about curcumin (turmeric) “These results point out that curcumin may result in the induction of effective T cell-mediated antitumor immune response and support the immune system in lung tumor-bearing model, thus advocating the possible use of curcumin as an immunologically safe drug for the treatment of cancer [70]. Treatment with curcumin (30 and 45 mg/kg body weight) caused reduction in lung tumor incidence, size and weight compared with the control group in athymic nude mice injected with human lung large cell carcinoma NCI-H460 cells [71]. It was shown that 1% curcumin in the diet suppressed non-typeable Hemophilus influenzae NTHi-induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)-like airway inflammation and K-ras-initiated lung cancer in mice. This data provide further evidence about the effectiveness of curcumin, alone or in combination as a therapeutic agent, against lung cancer.”

    1. Sarah,

      Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I’m familiar with studies of this sort and I have read through the article you reference. One thing I think is important, in the context of my post you are commenting on, is that people like Chris Wark will often take legitimate studies as the starting point for their claims — and then sell a faux solution that they claim is backed by science. This is very standard practice in the world of “alternative medicine.”

      That aside, there is very interesting research being done in the area of chemicals derived from food (and other natural sources). It’s nothing new because medical science has often started from this perspective (and some of the most common chemotherapy originated this way). Still, the final paragraph in the study you reference is worth looking at closely:

      “The results of clinical trials with dietary agents are not very encouraging for lung cancer. However, clinical trials investigating the natural or dietary agents for the chemoprevention/chemotherapy of lung cancer are critically required. The studies establishing the mechanistic basis of these dietary agents and identification of biomarkers are vital for the successful planning of the clinical trials. Therefore, future clinical studies should be designed keeping in mind the current trials and to identify and incorporate clinical markers of lung cancer risk with molecular biomarkers which might help in the early detection of lung cancer. The dietary agents discussed in this review article inhibit lung carcinogenesis in cell-culture and animal models and act through varied mechanisms. Therefore, combination of these agents would be more desirable to pursue in future clinical trials. For successful chemoprevention, it is more reasonable to use combination of chemopreventive agents as it would reduce the dose of each compound resulting in less toxicity and maximum efficacy by targeting multiple signaling pathways.”

      It is also relevant to point out that just because something is being studied does not mean that it actually works. Many bogus studies are performed each year, and many areas of study do not end up proving successful. And studies in mice or lab dishes are not proof for human success. (Remember, the doses used in these studies often far exceed what most people are capable of consuming safely.)

      In short, I agree with you that there are many areas still worth looking into. And I find the issue of prevention to be especially interesting with regard to dietary approaches. There may still be no indication that a patient can eat their way to a cancer cure, but being as healthy as possible is always a good place to start. And you are correct, for the most part using healthy dietary approaches will work well with conventional therapies, and certainly should not hurt.

      Best of luck!

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