Quality of Life
by Dr Michael Ellis


Epidemiology data from Australia and the USA show that there has been no improvement in cancer mortality in males and females in the last fifty years. In fact in males, there has been an increase in mortality over the past fifty years. Men have 1.3 times more cancer incidents than women. The survival of the commonest cancers has not altered for many years. Five year survival of lung cancer is ten percent, bowel is thirty five percent, breast is sixty five percent, pancreas is two percent and stomach is ten percent. John Bailar who is a very reputable professor of Epidemiology in the USA has stated that the increase in cancer death rates by seven percent during 1975 and 1999 cannot be explained by aging. "A decade of wars against cancer has been a qualified failure."

It has been shown again and again and again and I can provide appropriate papers for you to see that cancer like the other degenerative diseases of our society which include, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, arthritis, osteoporosis and stress can be prevented by lifestyle changes i.e., the use of nutrition and nutritional products, exercise, weight loss and relaxation. The health of the public hinges on three legs of a stool, these legs being, release of stress, some sense of mastery of one's own life and support of community.

Cardiovascular disease is the greatest killer in our society. A person in Australia dies of a heart attack every ten minutes. The cost of management of heart attack in the States, including costly heart surgery and angiography and stenting of the coronary arteries amounts to $US56 billion per year. In Australia the cost is approximately $5.6 billion per year.

I would like to discuss three significant research trials based on the management of cancer, heart disease and stress which in fact when looked at in an overall perspective are all related. Just as the body is composed of mind, body and spirit and works in an integrated fashion, the various illnesses, which people suffer have a common cause. Medical science is now beginning to define this cause but unfortunately because of the kind of education that doctors receive, (the bio-medical model), this means that most of the profession are not willing to open their eyes to a holistic approach. They are motivated by self serving interests and narrow focusing of their minds which prevents them from seeing the total picture. The problem is further inflamed by the fact that medical schools seek out students who although may be very intelligent are not being educated for life itself. This is seen as such a problem in England that there is now thought of introducing arts education into the domain of medical science. The most successful medical school in Germany chooses its students on the basis of intellect and passion and also includes within its curriculum a host of complementary, holistic and nutritional education. Once the students have enrolled ,their only requirement is to pass. Despite this, the university achieves the highest results in Germany.

Of course, this sentiment is being echoed by the public at large, seventy percent of whom are now also turning to naturopaths and alternative practitioners. People are looking for more than just therapy. They know that therapy can often bee painful and in hospitals they are treated an anonymous numbers. People increasingly are seeking for something extra which I would term 'quality of life'.

In the New England Journal of Medicine on July 13th 2000, a paper was published estimating the overall contribution of inherited genes to the development of cancer. The paper was the combined data on 44,788 twins in Sweden, Denmark and Finland that enabled the researchers to assess the risks of cancer in twenty eight anatomical sights.

The conclusions provided remarkable information. In particular, it showed that environmental factors were the dominant determiners of site specific cancer. From this perspective, environmental exposure, particularly in regards to foods, and environmental toxins (xenobiotics) and stress is paramount in the causation and treatment of cancer.

Dean Ornish's work at San Fransisco's Preventive Medicine Research Centre is impressive. Over the past ten years, Ornish has demonstrated that a comprehensive group approach which includes an extremely low fat diet, aerobic exercise, smoking cessation, yoga and meditation as well as group support can unclog plaque narrowed coronary arteries.

He published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1988, in which two groups of a total of 48 patients with cardiovascular disease were trialed, the control with conventional treatment and the other group with a comprehensive lifestyle approach. The result showed massive differences in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. At a five year follow up, coronary stenosis was increased 11.8% of controls and stenosis had decreased in 3.1% of the treatment group.

It has also been shown that regular meditation increases the diameter of the coronary artery and reduces the intima media thickness meaning that the coronary artery vessels are wider and better perfused.

The Dean Ornish program in America is supported by forty insurance companies and costs $10,000 compared with an average cardiovascular surgical intervention which costs at least $40,000-$50,000.

We live in a society which is overtly stressed. There are rapid changes in lifestyle based on new technologies and also uncertainties of our future due to the irreversible destruction of our living and non-living resources and the threat of massive climatic change. There is increasing inequality between the wealthy and the poor to the extent that poverty and socio-economic deprivation is endemic even in the so called developed countries of America, England and the USA.

More and more quality of life is judged in terms of wealth rather than in terms of such immeasurable faculties such as happiness, creativity, well being, generosity of spirit and a sense of compassion and connectedness. Even the education system is focused on the needs of big business and children are narrowly focused on aims which do not enhance their health or create a wider knowledge of their understanding of their place in society or the nature of life itself.

The basic needs of freedom of poverty expressed by such people as Galtung, Rawls, Max-Neef and Lasswell and Maslow are not addressed for people even in higher socio-economic groups ion the developed world. Such needs would address the needs specifically for affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. The society is so stressed that by 2010, one in three people will be suffering from depression which psychiatrists consider needs medical treatment by drugs. So we come to the brave new world of Aldous Huxley where the workers are placed on soma to blunt their conception of what freedom or real quality of life is.

The scientific work in medicine done on the effects of a stressed society on disease really started with the work of Dr David Spiegel at Stanford University. In 1989, his very significant work on the effect of psychosocial treatment on the survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer was published in the Lancet. 86 patients were split into two groups. Both groups had routine cancer therapy. However, the treatment group had a one year intervention consisting of a weekly supportive group therapy. The study showed survival time for the intervention group was 36.6 months compared with 18.9 months for the controlled group. This means that psychosocial treatment increased the survival of breast cancer patients twice.

The kind of information, I have given you regarding cancer, cardiovascular disease and lifestyle change has been all but ignored by the medical profession at large. But, it does point to the way stress and the release of stress has on the management and treatment of both cancer and cardiovascular disease and probably most diseases of western society.

I therefore feel that powerful psychosocial changes need to be implemented for the general population if we are to create a more co-operative and healed society. Most doctors seek for a band-aid approach and instant cures. The treatment of illness is considered more significant than prevention. There should be a new medicine based on the creation of health rather than the treatment of illness.


Dr Michael Ellis Chief Editor of The New Paradigm Journal
is Founder of The Centre For Change www.peace-era.com and The Medical renaissance Group www.medicalrenaissance.org and facilitator for The Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist Society Australia www.buddhistcentre.org Dr Ellis is an English trained doctor with over 20 years of general practice both in the UK and in Australia.He has higher qualifications in general medicine and paediatrics. He has a special interest in mind/body medicine and in optimizing the physical, mental and emotional health of the. As well as his medical qualifications, Dr Ellis also has an Honours Degree in Literature, Arts. Philosophy and Social Psychology. Michael has been practicing Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism for 25 years and is a teacher of this Buddhism in Melbourne www.buddhistcentre.org He is the editor of the Australian Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist Newsletter which is distributed worldwide. With Dr Jager Holly he is the Australian and New Zealand Representative of The Institute of Noetic Studies California
Dr Ellis is a writer and author.

Dr Ellis founded and convened an international conference - Conference Earth: Humanity and Planet Earth - 2001 and Beyond. This conference was held at and supported by Melbourne University on 17-19 November 1995 with 400 delegates, 50 workshop leaders and 10 international speakers attracting national media coverage. This series of Mindquest Conferences is now supported by the Research Institute "The Centre For Change" www.peace-era.com founded by Dr Ellis.

Dr Ellis founded The Centre For Change in 2000 and has since conducted regular seminars at Swinburne University, Melbourne on a wide range of topics related to the achievement of World Peace. His invited speakers are all Leaders in their chosen fields. With Dr Pavel Kasyanov in 2002 he presented the paper entitled Transition to a Sustainable Civilisation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (see www.peace-era.com)

Dr Ellis has a keen interest in the plight of the ordinary GP and is concerned about creating a more sustainable future for both doctors and the community. Because of this, he established The Medical Renaissance Group www.medicalrenaissance.org in Australia in 2001, which is sponsored by Dr Ian Dettman, Director of Biological Therapies. The Medical Renaissance Group aims to bring together the global community of doctors and community to lobby their respective governments for the creation of a healing culture which places priority on the health of the individual rather than on the illness of the individual. In this respect, it supports preventative, nutritional ,mind / body medicine and Wellness Medicine and sees healing as being a unique partnership between the doctor and the patient.

Dr Ellis conducts seminars on Wellness and Mid Body Medicine and Anti-Aging Medicine Internationally.
He can be contacted on