An Alternative Approach to Allergies: The New Field of Clinical Ecology Unravels the Environmental Causes of
Theron G. Randolph and Ralph W. Moss

A groundbreaking work in the field of environmental medicine. Although the title refers to allergies, the book deals much more broadly with the effect of environmental toxins on the immune system.

American Academy of Environmental Medicine

This organization can provide referrals if you are looking for a specialist in environmental medicine.

Lifestyle and environment

The final part of my physical program for healing included environmental and lifestyle changes.

It is well known these days that pollutants in food, water, and the environment are one cause of cancer. But even apart from their direct carcinogenic effects, these substances also place an added burden on the immune system. The body has to identify them, and the liver, kidneys, and other organs have to process them and remove them from the body.

Modern science tends to try to isolate individual factors when looking for the causes of cancer, and this approach does have value. However, specialists in environmental medicine speak about the “total load” on the immune system as a key cause of concern. There may be no single pollutant that is harmful or fatal by itself, but each puts a certain load on the immune system, and the total may be more than the body can effectively handle.

Either way, it made sense to do what I could to remove unnecessary toxins and chemicals from my environment. Just having the tumor removed in the lumpectomy was one less thing with which the immune system had to deal. Anything else I could do to unburden my immune system would free it up for the challenges of chemotherapy and radiation. I felt that this would also help the immune system take care of any remaining cancer cells and prevent any future recurrence.

I consider myself very fortunate to live in a mountain environment with clean air and water, and thus I do not have to deal with many of the everyday pollution concerns that people in large cities face. Also, I did not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages (both of which put a burden on the immune system and have been shown to increase the risk of cancer). I now began to consider other environmental carcinogens that I might not have been aware of previously.

For example, I look for organically-grown foods, which are now becoming widely available in regular supermarkets. I now use only natural deodorants and try to use more natural cosmetics and personal-care products where there are good alternatives available. (I feel that avoiding artificial chemicals may be especially important in deodorants, which are applied to the skin very near the breast and directly over the lymph nodes that are nearest to the breast.) There is also evidence that wearing a bra (especially an underwired bra) for more than twelve hours a day may increase the risk of breast cancer,[1] so I now try to make sure I have bras that are comfortable and fit well and don’t cause irritation or unnecessarily restrict in the flow of blood and lymph fluid.

I do not believe that any one of these factors causes breast cancer in itself, but if I can reduce the overall risk by a small percentage, I feel it is worth it for someone like me, who already has an increased risk of future breast cancer. With more and more natural and organic products available, it is not difficult to make these kinds of changes. Once again, it is not “all or nothing”—you don’t have to go 100 percent organic to make a difference. Remember, it is the total load on the immune system that is the key, and even a few substitutions will help.


1. Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grissmaijer, Dressed to Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras (Garden City Park, N.Y.: Avery Publishing Group, 1995).


Excerpted from A Journey through Cancer, by Neroli Duffy