L. Duncan Bulkley, treated cancer in the early 20th century
L. Duncan Bulkley, MD treated cancer in the early 20th century

Our researchers recently took a journey back in time and examined what physicians were discussing and writing about the treatment of cancer nearly one hundred years ago. We wanted to know if a holistic approach to cancer was a recent phenomenon in Western medicine. What we found was startling. We discovered that many doctors who treated cancer in the beginning of the 1900’s believed that general health, nutrition, and diet played an important role in both the cause of cancer and its management. In fact, many of these doctors used cancer therapies specifically aimed at eliminating toxins and reinstating a general state of health in the body. A few were critical of the use of “local measures” like surgery and radiation for what they viewed as a “constitutional” disease.

Below are some excerpts from articles taken from medical books that are found in the rare book rooms of major medical libraries – pages that have remained sealed for almost 100 years.

Nutrition, Diet, Toxins and Cancer

“Cancer is a constitutional disease related to diet. It is now generally agreed that there is a constitutional factor, which establishes a predisposition…the major factor is some habit of living…From considerable experience, I have concluded that cancer might be reduced as much as we have reduced tuberculosis in the past twelve years, since we gave up looking for a specific ‘cure,’ and began to treat it as a disease of faulty nutrition.”
– Thomas J. Allen, M.D., “Dietetic Treatment of Cancer,” Medical Record, pp. 633-634, October 8, 1921.

“From my standpoint cancer is the outcome, in every instance, of prolonged chronic autotoxemia, and a vitiated blood supply…Would it not help matters materially if we would also adopt measures, such as a reformed diet, and the closest attention to the sanitary condition of the colon, with a view to removing the toxic condition of the blood, which, I am convinced, is the potent factor in the pathogenesis of cancer.”
– Robert Bell, MD, FRFPS, “Cancer is a Blood Disease and Should be Treated as Such,” Medical Record, pp. 453-455, March 18, 1922.

“The metabolic changes constantly observed in patients with early and late cancer have been recorded, as also the definitive changes in the blood…We know that wrong nutrition accounts for tuberculosis, rickets, obesity, and many complaints, and we know that nutrition depends upon the food and drink taken; and we know that nutrition accounts for the marvelous results obtained with tuberculosis in spite of the continued presence of tubercle bacilli. We know, further, that good or bad nutrition depends also upon the proper or improper action of one or more of the various internal organs, and is also influenced by nervous conditions. What reasonable objection can be raised to the assumption that cancer is also due to errors of nutrition? If the latter is true, it follows naturally that the exactly proper food and drink, together with correct action of all the internal organs, will prevent and cure cancer.”
– L. Duncan Bulkley, M.D., “Medical Versus Surgical Treatment of Cancer,” Medical Record, pp. 177-184, February 1, 1919

“‘The blood is the life’ is a trite saying, and with that statement the matter, with some people, would appear to end. It, however, must be admitted, even by the most casual, that healthy life is compatible only with an uncontaminated blood current. And it is obvious if the blood can be maintained in a pure condition the cellular tissues would, in consequence of their component cells being supplied with the most invigorating form of nourishment, be enabled to carry on their functional activity in the most perfect manner, and therefore be capable of resisting the invasion of disease no matter what form it may assume.”
– Robert Bell, M.D., “The Cancer Enigma,” Medical Record, pp. 346-348, February 28, 1920.

Cancer As An Adaptive Response

“The simple act of planting a twig in the ground illustrates how, through environment, certain morphological differentiations can occur in a cell. The bark of a twig, for example, consists of cells accustomed to the influences of sunlight and atmospheric conditions, but when the twig is planted these same cells adapt themselves to the changed conditions and become root cells, performing a function for which they were not originally designed…Accordingly it can be reasonably assumed that…it may be possible through environment to alter the physiological properties of certain vital molecules to such a degree that atypical cells may become manifested in tissues of different structures.”
– Edward Percy Robinson, M.D., “An Hypothesis Regarding the Physico-Chemical Nature of Cancer,” Medical Record pp. 356-361, September 1, 1917.

“Cancer is an adaptive response on the part of certain cells or cell groups to environmental change: we must start with the fundamental truth that every adaptive response made by cells to environmental change is the outcome of the interaction of two factors – environmental stimulus on the one hand and the cell potentiality on the other.”
– John Round, LRCP, LRCS, “Cancer, A Disease of Deficiency,” Medical Record pp. 184- 190, August 3, 1918.

Surgery and Radiation

“The laity as well as the profession have, of late years, become so obsessed with the idea of its purely local character, and so carried away with the craze for surgery, that practically every one thinks only of local operative treatment by the knife, x-ray, radium, etc…and yet for many years eminent surgeons have time and again acknowledged their inability to cope with cancer, as such, and have contented themselves with attempting to remove the product of the disease, namely, the malignant new growth. But little regard has been given thus far to the real cause of this new growth…And all of this in spite of the fact which everyone must recognize, that all growth, whether normal, abnormal, or malignant, depends upon the character of the blood supply, which again derives its quality from the food and drink taken, and the manner in which the metabolism of the system is carried out.”
– L. Duncan Bulkley, M.D., “Cancer in Relation to Body Elimination,” Medical Record, pp. 14-16, Volume CII, 1915.

“What is the real problem of cancer? Surely it is not to increase the surgical activity, which has resulted only in a steadily ascending scale of mortality, which in reality is greater than that observed in any other malady…Is it not time for us to stop and consider whether our laboratory work with the microscope on morbid tissues, and our experimentation on rats and mice are truly serving to solve the real problem of cancer? Had we not better turn our attention to human beings, and by careful clinical study of our patients discover where the fundamental error lies…”
– Albert C. Geyser, M.D., “Nonsurgical Treatment of Cancer,” Medical Record, pp. 203-204, February 2, 1918.

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