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Dr Alfred Dawes | What the bad gas saga can teach us about Cancer

Published:Wednesday | December 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Dr Alfred Dawes
Cancers grow from tiny clusters of cells to masses that invade the organs and later spread to other areas of the body.
Food additives, contaminants, cigarette smoke, etc., are all toxins taken in the body that can damage cells.

Since last year, motorists have had to shell out millions of dollars to repair engines damaged by contaminated fuel sold at legitimate gas stations. Despite probes and reports, nobody seems to know what is the source of this problem. Since the issue does not seem to be going away anytime soon, we might as well make use of a bad situation to learn about some common medical conditions.

Each of the 37 trillion cells in the body is akin to little engines. They get fuel from the gut and burn this fuel with oxygen from the lungs to create energy to carry out their specific functions, grow and reproduce. Not unlike car engines, if the fuel is contaminated, it can damage the cells. Contaminated cell fuel comes in the form of toxins.

Food additives, contaminants, cigarette smoke, etc, are all toxins taken in the body that can damage cells. Even viruses that invade the body can act as toxins. Once taken up by the cells, they damage the DNA that controls the way cells multiply.

Normally, the body, akin to the Government, maintains a tight control over how many cells multiply on a daily basis. Cells multiply to a set point and stop after receiving signals to do so. Then they enter a resting phase, after which they get further instructions to multiply and replace cells that have died, keeping the numbers fairly constant.




When the DNA of cells is damaged, the cells stop obeying the signals to stop growing. They continue to multiply and change how they look so much that they are unrecognisable from the mother cells. If these cells start to invade the surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body, this is termed cancer.

Some cells that change to the point of growing out of control but don't invade and spread are tumours but not cancers. An example of such a tumour is fibroids that develop from muscle cells in the womb. Fibroids may grow to large sizes but don't spread to other parts of the body the way a cancer does.

Normally, the body has checks and balances to rid itself of toxins that enter it daily. Toxins are oftentimes stopped at the source of entry. This occurs as vomiting and diarrhoea if some chemicals or germs are ingested. The liver inspects blood coming from the gut carrying absorbed fuel from food. Toxins are then removed from the blood by special cells in the liver. This process is very efficient, in contrast to what obtains in the gasolene retail industry in Jamaica.

The immune system of the body can be viewed as a combined military, police and customs unit. The cells of the immune system patrol the body and when a potential threat is encountered, a report is sent to central command.

Central command then acts on this report by sending out forces to neutralise the threat. So if a cancer-causing virus is spotted, a report is made and the defence force responds, destroying the virus. However, if the immune system is impaired, such as in AIDS, cancer-causing viruses may not be identified or destroyed. This explains why some cancers such as Kaposi's sarcoma are seen primarily in persons living with AIDS.

The scenario of a weakened immune system that fails to regulate and enforce in patients with AIDS is the best allegory of what occurs in Jamaica. In spite of continued widespread reports of bad gas, the poor response at identification and neutralisation of the threat has been 'AIDS-ic' at best. And as viruses and toxins damage the DNA in cells, so are the engines of cars, bikes, trucks and buses damaged by bad gas all across Jamaica.




The natural history of untreated cancer is similar to that of a revolution. Cancers grow from tiny clusters of cells to masses that invade the organs and later spread to other areas of the body. The immune system cannot destroy these rebel cells fast enough and they soon take over entire regions of the body, consuming a lot of fuel at the expense of the normal tissues. This explains the significant weight loss that occurs with advanced cancers. Eventually, the body cannot sustain itself as the uprising of cancer cells continues to eat away at its systems. It begins to shut down. The cancer victim wastes away and the body loses the battle. The patient eventually succumbs to the illness and the cancer cells die along with the normal cells.




Toxins, viruses and bad gas can cause significant damage. There must be systems in place to monitor what comes into our ports and bodies, and what is transported and stored. The immune system and regulatory bodies must get reports and act decisively on these reports to neutralise any identified threats before they cause any damage.

If the immune system or regulatory bodies are weak then the system fails to stop damage to cells and engines. With continued damage to DNA over time, the cell or unit member of the society of the body will cease to recognise the authority of the system that failed to protect it and move to overthrow that system. Clusters of tiny cells will become masses. The masses will then one day destroy the very foundations on which the body's society is built, and there will be nothing left to govern.

- Dr Alfred Dawes is a general laparoscopic and weight loss surgeon at the Island Laparoscopy and Medical Care. Email:;