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With cancer, better diet may save more lives than research | READER COMMENTARY

Professor Wang Wen-ching (left) of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Dr. Tseng Linlu researching a new treatment for gastric cancer in Taiwan. (Photo by National Tsing Hua University/Associated Press).
Professor Wang Wen-ching (left) of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Dr. Tseng Linlu researching a new treatment for gastric cancer in Taiwan. (Photo by National Tsing Hua University/Associated Press).

Oncologist Ethan Dmitrovsky calls for international cooperation and the banding together of the public and private sectors to combat cancer (“What we can learn about cancer drug development from the COVID-19 approach,” Feb. 12).

Instead of throwing more money at the cancer-industrial complex whose main beneficiaries are the stockholders of corporations (think Big Pharma), the answer lies in another article on the same page (“It’s time for a plant powered overhaul of American diets”).

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The consumption of both processed and unprocessed meat is associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer and heart disease and shortened life spans over all. In fact, the World Health Organization classifies processed meat as a Group I carcinogen, along with tobacco and asbestos.

Every time you eat a hot dog, it’s like you’re smoking a cigarette. Every time you eat bacon or have deli meat, you might as well be inhaling asbestos particles.

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I know, meat tastes great, and getting people to move to a whole food, plant-based diet will be a challenge, especially with all the powerful special interests lined up against it. But I remember that you could smoke cigarettes in my college classroom. At my first hospital job, cigarettes were sold in vending machines in the lobby. That’s unthinkable now.

If the public and private sectors could be so successful in curtailing smoking, they could work together to improve our diet. Perhaps we wouldn’t have to spend $160 billion per year on the treatment of cancer if we spent just a fraction of that on prevention. Maybe someday Dr. Dmitrovsky would need to find another specialty. That would be a great day.

Dan Jerrems, Parkton

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