JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's an old story apparently making new rounds on Facebook and elsewhere: an article titled "Why Women in China Don't Get Breast Cancer".
It tells the story of British geochemist Dr. Jane Plant, who battled - and purportedly defeated - cancer eight times. So the story goes, Plant discovered and claimed that women in China don't contract breast cancer, and that her success overcoming the disease was because she eliminated dairy products from her diet.
Whether Plant meant to imply that there is literally no incidents of breast cancer among women in China or not isn't clear. But we consulted a few well-known resources, starting with the Susan G. Komen website, which indicates that approximately 18 of every 100,000 in "Eastern Asia" contract breast cancer, compared to roughly 92 of 100,000 in North America.
By those statistics the proportion is a lopsided five-to-one difference, but clearly indicates incidents of breast cancer in eastern Asia, although it goes short of specifying how many occur in China.
Another source is the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Its statistics, dating from 2008, indicate an approximate two-to-one ratio of breast cancer frequency comparing China to the United States, respectively, but like the Susan G. Komen statistics, don't suggest a non-existence of breast cancer in China.
Therefore, we verify the claim that women in China don't get breast cancer to be false.
Regarding the claim that eliminating dairy products can prevent or cure breast cancer, there are ongoing debates about the role of diet and specific foods in the rate of various illnesses and diseases. First Coast News consulted Dr. Shahla Masood, Medical Director at University of Florida Health Breast Center.
"Even though there are anecdotal incidents here and there, there is no scientific evidence, to date, to try to really associate the use of dairy products to development of breast cancer," Masood began, "or, for that matter, shrinking the breast cancer."
Masood insists there are too many variables, including genetics and socioeconomics, to simply point to one factor.
"It is not possible to try to just find one element to be responsible for development of breast cancer," she said.
So, while Plant's claim that her tumors shrunk within weeks of her eliminating dairy from her diet might be true, Masood says a blanket solution and cure prove far more elusive.
Given Masood's response, we verify the claim that a dairy-free diet cured Plant's cancer - let alone can do so for the masses - is false.
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