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The Cancer Project: PCRM's Fund for Cancer Prevention and Survival

Phlebotomist Rodney Meeks prepares blood samples from participants in PCRM's study of milk's effect on hormone levels.Cancer remains a tremendous challenge in America and throughout the world. Recent estimates put the lifetime risk of developing cancer at one in three for women, and an unprecedented one in two for men. It has long been clear that a new effort is needed: one that puts prevention first and foremost, that elucidates the critical links between diet and cancer, and that performs its work with the highest possible standards—vital human research that conforms to the best ethical standards, while avoiding animal experimentation.

This is what motivated PCRM to start the Cancer Project. The need for this endeavor was confirmed by the Cancer Awareness Survey, first conducted by PCRM in 1991 with Opinion Research Corporation International to check Americans' knowledge of cancer risks. The initial survey focused on breast cancer and found that only 20 percent of participants had any inkling that breast cancer was linked to dietary factors. A second survey in 1995 showed that awareness of diet and cancer had improved only marginally, to 23 percent. The detailed results were published in Preventive Medicine.

Now, four years later, we have completed a much more detailed survey, looking at awareness of colon, prostate, and breast cancer. The dismal results show that Americans' understanding of food is influenced more by fast-food marketing than by any health organization. (See survey results.)

Clinical Research

PCRM staff members review milk study data.The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Cancer Project conduct research studies that answer practical questions. How do foods affect the hormones that raise cancer risk? How can people best change their diets? A PCRM-funded study appearing soon in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that a low-fat, vegan diet increases the amount of sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in the blood. SHBG has a protective role in hormone-related cancers.

The Cancer Project is now embarking on new studies of the links between diet and cancer. One compares the effects of cow's milk and soymilk on the activity of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), a hormone linked to prostate and breast cancer. A second study examines the effects of omnivorous and vegetarian diets on body weight and IGF-I. The Cancer Project does not sponsor or conduct animal experiments.

Vital Information

The Cancer Project's doctors and nutritionists conduct frequent media interviews. The program has sent more than 2,500 public service messages to television stations and more than 300,000 pieces of educational materials to individuals.

The Cancer Project distributes life-saving information to health professionals at conferences and conventions, and our curricula for medical students aim to end the lack of training in nutrition and prevention that marks many medical school programs.


Scientific Publications (reprints available)

  • Barnard ND, Nicholson A, Akhtar A. Factors that facilitate compliance to lower fat intake. Arch Fam Med 1995;4:153-8.
  • Barnard ND, Nicholson A, Howard JL. The medical costs attributable to meat consumption. Prev Med 1995;24:646-55.
  • Nicholson A. Diet and the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Alt Ther 1996;2:32-8.
  • Barnard ND, Nicholson A. Beliefs about dietary factors in breast cancer among American women, 1991 to 1995. Prev Med 1997;26:109-13.
  • Outwater J, Nicholson A, Barnard ND. Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF-I, estrogen, and BGH hypothesis. Med Hypoth 1997;48:453-61.
  • Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Hurlock D, Bertron P. Diet and sex-hormone binding globulin, dysmenorrhea, and premenstrual symptoms. Obstet Gynecol, in press.

Booklets and Fact Sheets

  • The Cancer Prevention and Survival Series:
    "Food Choices for Health"
    "A Natural Approach to Menopause"
    "The Roles of Exercise and Stress Management"
  • "Foods for Cancer Prevention"
  • "Hormone Reference Card"
  • "Hormone Replacement Increases Cancer Risk"
  • "La Comida Vegetariana Poderosa para la Salud"
  • "The New Approach to Prostate Problems"
  • "Permanent Weight Control"
  • "Research on the Major Killers of Americans"
  • "What's Wrong with Dairy Products?"
  • "Women and Cancer: Opportunities for Prevention"
  • Vegetarian Starter Kit


  • Foods That Fight Pain by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., 1998
  • Eat Right, Live Longer by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., 1995
  • Food for Life by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., 1993
  • The Best in the World: Fast, Healthful Recipes from Exclusive and Out-of-the-Way Restaurants by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., ed., 1998
  • The Vegetarian No-Cholesterol Barbecue Book by Kate Schumann and Virginia Messina, M.P.H., R.D., 1994
  • The Vegetarian No-Cholesterol Family-Style Cookbook by Kate Schumann and Virginia Messina, M.P.H., R.D., 1995


  • Cancer Prevention and Survival by Neal D. Barnard, M.D.


  • Live Longer, Live Better by Neal D. Barnard, M.D.

Why the Cancer Project Funds No Animal Experiments

Animal experiments are not only very stressful (and usually fatal) to animals. Results of animal experiments are often difficult to apply to humans. In cancer research, this has been a constant problem. The liver enzymes that detoxify carcinogens differ greatly between species, and cancer itself is very different, not only from species to species, but even from one organ to another. Modern techniques permit the examination of factors that influence cancer risk in human research subjects with no more harm than typical blood tests, and results can be used with no need to bridge the species gap.


Autumn 1999 (Volume VIII, Number 4)

Autumn 1999
Volume VIII
Number 4

Good Medicine

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