This informative post was written by Goji Man (a.k.a. Simon Hammett), who is from the UK and is currently studying a Masters in Food, Nutrition & Health. He runs a blog called gojimannutrition.com which focuses on plant based nutrition and health which I encourage you to check out! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
It is just over four years since Steve Jobs died.
He was a creative genius. A visionary. An innovator. He changed the way we all interact with technology. The way we listen to music and the way we communicate with people.
Sadly on the 5th October 2011 he succumbed to pancreatic cancer after battling with the disease for 8 years.
Following his death, much has been written in the media about his “wacky eating patterns” and his decision to delay surgery. Some have even cited these as being among the main reasons of why he died.
I therefore wanted to write an article addressing the misconceptions surrounding Steve Jobs battle with cancer, his diet and also what the latest scientific research tells us about plant based diets and cancer.
Before I jump into this I just want to highlight the gravity of what we are dealing with. According to the World Health Organisation 8.2 million people a year die of cancer and it is estimated that there will be a 70% rise in new cases over the next two decades (1).
The Basics First
One of the main misconceptions (perpetuated by the media) is that cancer spreads very quickly and can develop “overnight”. After all, a person is usually fine one minute and then riddled with the disease the next.
In reality cancer grows at a very steady rate (known as a doubling rate). A single cancer cell divides into two, two cells into four, four to eight, and so on.
Modern medicine techniques won’t usually be able to detect cancer until it reaches approximately 1mm in size. At this size the tumour will contain approximately 1 million cells and will have taken about 6 years to grow. At ten years the tumour will contain approximately one billion cells and have a diameter of approximately 1cm.
A person will usually die when the tumour reaches 10cm in size.
Notable Dates And Events In Steve Jobs Battle With Cancer
The following two sections of this article are summaries taken from Steve Jobs Autobiography and Dr John McDougall’s November 2011 Newsletter: Why Did Steve Jobs Die? (37). Dr McDougall has also done a recorded presentation (titled: Why Did Steve Jobs Die) which I strongly recommend watching. This presentation is available to watch on YouTube.
- During a meeting in 1987 it was noted that: “His hands, which are slightly and inexplicably yellow, are in constant motion (223)”. Dr Mcdougall in his newsletter suggests that this yellowing of Steve Jobs hands was caused as his pancreatic tumour was blocking the flow of bile which resulted in his jaundice.
- In 1998 his pancreatic cancer also caused abdominal and back pain. From an extract in his biography Steve Jobs noted: “I was driving up to Pixar and down to Apple in my black Porsche convertible, and I started to get kidney stones. I would rush to the hospital and the hospital would give me a shot of Demerol in the butt and eventually I would pass it.”(334). Dr McDougall suggests that these kidney stones were very unlikely in a strict vegan. Kidney stones are associated with high animal protein diets. He suggests that the pains were associated with the cancer growing in his pancreas. The next point makes this abundantly clear.
- In 2003, Steve Jobs had a CAT scan of his kidneys and ureter. Nothing was found to be wrong with his kidneys but a shadow was detected on his pancreas.
- We know that Steve Jobs was 56 when he died (tumour would have been at least 10cm in size to kill him) and 48 when his pancreatic cancer was detected. Therefore using simple mathematics we know that his cancer cells had a doubling rate of 10 months. This is considered a slow doubling rate or a slow growing cancer. A fast growing cancer would have a doubling rate of 3-5 months.
- By knowing this doubling rate and using the same simple mathematics you can reasonably assume that Steve Jobs first developed cancer in his early 20’s. Probably around 24 (see Dr McDougall’s newsletter for an explanation of how doubling rates are calculated).
- Similar calculations also show that his pancreatic cancer metastasized (spread) to his liver over 20 years before his surgery in July 2004.
- In 2008 it was abundantly clear to the medical team that the cancer was spreading throughout his body.
- In April 2009 Steve Jobs had a liver transplant.
- In July 2011 it was clear cancer had spread to his bones. His doctors declared there was nothing else they could do for him.
- Steve Jobs died on the 5th October 2011.
Steve Jobs Regret
Steve Jobs cancer was detected in 2003. He waited 9 months before agreeing to surgery. As stated in his biography: “I really didn’t want them to open my body, so I tried to see if a few other things would work”(454).
When he died in 2011 he believed that his decision to delay his surgery for 9 months cost him his life. Can you imagine dying with that regret and guilt?
The media still portrays the decision by Steve Jobs to delay his surgery as irresponsible and stupid. It’s seen as the leading factor for why Steve Jobs died. In reality, by the time his cancer was detected it was already too advanced for any medical intervention.
As Dr McDougall stated in his newsletter: “With one honest sentence his doctors could have relieved him of this heavy burden. This simple fact could have been told: “Mr. Jobs, you had a body full of cancer long before October of 2003, when you were diagnosed by a needle biopsy.” Apparently, not one of his doctors—not Jeffrey Norton, who had operated on his pancreas in 2004, nor James Eason, who had performed his liver transplant in 2009—told Jobs this indisputable truth”.
Steve Jobs Vegan Diet: Does The Science Support It?
From the latest scientific research we know that plant based diets can help to prevent, slow and even reverse cancer (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,
On the other hand we know that meat consumption (particularly processed meats) increases the risk of various cancers (32, 33, 34). It’s something that the meat industry is abundantly aware of and probably why an article was published in the American Meat Science Association Journal in 2011 titled: Red meat and colon cancer: Should we become vegetarians, or can we make meat safer (35)? It is also why the World Health Organisation has just categorised red and processed meats as carcinogens that cause cancer (36).
While Steve Jobs was a vegan, and this dietary approach probably prolonged his life, it should be noted that he also ate a lot of fake vegan cheese and fake vegan meat. He also regularly consumed vegetable oils. All of these types of foods are known to contain high levels of isolated soy proteins – all of which are known to promote cancer growth.
Despite the overwhelming evidence showing the protective benefits of plant based diets, the media still ridicules Steve Jobs’s dietary preferences. But the fact of the matter is that the type of diet he was following ultimately enabled him to live with pancreatic cancer for more than 30 years. And as Dr McDougall states in his newsletter: “His medical treatments did little or nothing to prolong his life, and caused him great misery at huge expense”.
So If His Diet Was Fairly Protective Why Did He Get Cancer?
Dr Mcdougall hypothesises in his newsletter that during the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs was exposed to many different chemicals and carcinogens. For example, according to his autobiography, Steve regularly soldered circuit boards (without wearing protective breathing apparatus).
We know that solder contains lead and other toxic metals that are known to cause mutations in DNA and cancer proliferation.
We also know from the autobiography and various other sources that during his 20’s he used a number of recreational drugs such as LSD.
We will never know what triggered the cancer in Steve Jobs. But as Dr McDougall succinctly put it: “Steve Jobs getting cancer was an unfortunate accident—like being struck by lightning or hit by a car. The carcinogen(s) entered his body and due to genetics, “bad luck,” or other unknown and uncontrollable factors his body was susceptible. The cause of his cancer was not due to his vegan diet. In fact, his healthy diet likely slowed the growth of his tumour, delayed the time of diagnosis, and prolonged his useful life”
Despite the media and medical industries incessant need to tie his diet and delayed surgery to his death, neither were actually to blame. If we are talking scientific facts they both prolonged his life and enabled him to change the world in which we live in. His decisions showed his profound understanding of optimal nutrition for the human body. The decisions he made highlight his ethics, his rationale, his genius and his zest for life.
At the time of his diagnosis he knew the false information that would be spread by the media and the medical industry. He said: “Also, when I got sick, I realised other people would write about me if I died, and they wouldn’t know anything. They’d get it all wrong (556)”. How right he was.
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