Rollo Hawkins is a familiar character here at Melanoma UK. We met him very shortly after his diagnosis in 2016 and we have developed a wonderful friendship with him. He is never afraid to speak about his situation and over the last few months has been an incredible help to many other patients, some newly diagnosed and some who find themselves in a similar situation to him.

Since his diagnosis, Rollo has conducted a lot of his own research into diet and nutrition and here, he shares his findings, views and feelings in a very interesting and thought provoking article………


The past few weeks have been tumultuous for a variety of personal reasons and led me to a place of reflection and, unusually for me, a place of passive observation rather than active opinion. As those of you who know me will attest to, this is somewhat unusual to say the least. Whether it is side effects from the drug treatments, the brain metastases, fatigue or just plain middle age – I have struggled recently to remain calm and hold my serenity in any confrontational situations but I seem to be able to self-analyse and recognise this fact even if I cannot seem to stop it.

Not easy to live with.

One of my current “bugbears” and one that is increasingly challenging for any new patients is the absolute plethora of media articles sensationalising this cancer cure or that one. This vegetable will cure you. That treatment will kill you. Trust your Doctors they know best. Don’t trust your Doctors they are in league with big pharmaceutical companies. Don’t do Chemotherapy it is toxic. If you choose to try and heal naturally, you will die. Use suncream. Don’t use suncream. The list goes on and on.

Now this might not go down well in all circles but I, personally, feel that there is equal blame from all “sides” for the subsequent fear, uncertainty and plain confusion that arises as a consequence. By “side”, I am including health practitioners, charities, nutritionists, well-meaning friends, homeopaths, counsellors, quacks ….. All of the above.

I am no analyst or medical expert but I am just trying to elaborate on my emotional position and illustrate the thought process and logic that leads me to this conclusion. Telling a terminally ill patient that “there is no data to support … “ is equally frustrating as being told that Boswellia cures brain tumours. Of COURSE there is no data to support a causal relationship between certain foodstuffs and any type of cancer. If there was, it would be banned! Find me the studies being conducted today that are structured in the right way to prove it (more on that later). It is simply too hard to prove. “There is no data to support ……” ranks right up there with “Lessons will be learned …..” in my book. It’s a platitude. A Nonsense. Unless you can provide DATA to refute the claim ….. in which case I am ALL ears …… then please shut up. There is no need to comment. All you achieve is to raise fear and doubt for a patient and add to the “noise”.

What I look for however is trends and correlation that suggests a relationship …. even if that relationship cannot be proven to be causal. Reason? Why not? There is no disagreement across alternative, natural, homeopathic, cancer charities and standard medical practitioners that a healthy diet and lifestyle can affect the body’s ability to prevent and fight cancer. You will find a surprising level of correlation between “The Truth about Cancer” as you will on, Cancer Research UK and other more mainstream information sources.

• Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
• Avoid alcohol and smoking.
• Try and keep your weight in balance.
• Exercise regularly.

Ironically nobody disagrees! So why all the noise?

“Global research shows that about a third of the most common cancers can be prevented through diet, maintaining a healthy weight and taking regular physical activity.”

I forget the precise source from this quote but it is from an approved FDA website in the US!!

To set the backdrop for this opinion, I thought I would use the recent BBC article that appeared last week that an increase in eating ultra processed food resulted in a similar rise in cancer cases. Wow. No shit. It should provide me with a little evidence.

So my initial impression was actually vindication. I am an active advocate for healthy eating and remain convinced that my approach to diet has helped me fight my cancer. I have not changed that view to be fair. Be clear about this, I am NOT advocating that eating Apricot Kernels, Broccoli, Curcumin or whatever other particular natural foodstuff is going to miraculously zap my cancer out of existence. I am not that naive. What I DO fervently believe is that my healthy eating (when I manage it) is helping me to maintain energy, boost my immune system, help me sleep, help keep my stress low and most importantly makes me feel better and contributing to my treatment.

I was then quite surprised and a little irritated by the subsequent backlash of various experts and organisations trying to minimise or destroy the study and pick holes in its logic and trial approach. Was it perfect? No. There were undeniably flaws in the concept (in particular the assumptions around diet choices remaining consistent over an extended period) but the study acknowledges itself that it was not suggesting a causal relationship – but was recommending further study.

I understand the motives which drive media organisations to sensationalise news events to increase ratings. I don’t understand the need to devote significant effort from charities and medical journals to be so quick to destroy these articles however. It raises the ugly head of cynicism in the darkest recesses of my mind. What has a research organisation (charity or otherwise) got to lose? Revenue? Possibly. The more confidence patients have, the less they rely on services around maybe.


Why do they do it and precisely why does it annoy and upset me? I had to think quite a bit about this.

It comes down to one word …. trust.

Do I trust my nutritionist? My GP? My oncology team? A charity? My weird friend who growls at the moon? Who?

Well the answer is none of the above. All of the above. Some of the above. Some of the time. It varies. My obstinate streak also leads me to distrust people and / or organisations who spend too much time shooting down other people’s work rather than focusing on the positives of their own. Generally I had always thought it was only politicians who devote time trying to distract attention away from their failings …. but it seems not. It’s a game played by many in the Cancer world.

So I read the research and, as it infers itself, there is an interesting correlation between processed food and an upsurge in cancer BUT the processed food may well be one symptom amongst many other possible causes. Alcohol? Smoking? Stress? Anxiety? And the naysayers were largely acknowledging the opinion but declaring piously that more data and research would be required.

Hey ho …. I agree. So I went looking on to get a view on current trials in Melanoma. There are 496 advertised and recruiting as of today. Please see the charts below for my categorisation of each trial. This is a personal assessment and classification based on the descriptors available to me on the site.  

I found ONE and ONE only that was interested and looking at non clinical treatments. Drugs (mostly Immunotherapy) were the largest count and screening / radiation / surgical / data collection made up the bulk of the rest. In fairness, this is Melanoma only …. there are simply too many to categorise across all cancer types without an analysis team or an AI computer.

So what? Well … I like to focus on wellness (to keep the MM Dementors at bay) and that requires a mindset looking at ALL elements of my lifestyle that contribute to my wellness and addressing them all. I know that an occasional glass of wine is not going to drastically alter my survival but I also know that a bottle a night washed down with a Quarter Pounder quite probably will. Equally, I know that all the organic good things that I eat individually are not cancer beaters BUT the collective power of them all ….. who knows? There is not enough Rollo’s on the planet to collect the data to prove it. I think this point was not really addressed in the processed food research. It is wrong and, quite probably highly libellous to infer any single food item or group is at fault ….. but collectively? It is the sum of ALL that I eat that needs to be considered alongside my level of exercise, my level of stress, the toxicity of the environment in which I live, etc, etc …

Who knows?

Until I see clinical trials which do start to provide observational results, I will allow myself to continue my own choices and my own decisions on whether I feel a supplement or food is acceptable to me. For note, I was first told by a nutritionist to eat probiotics to improve my immune system about ONE year prior to the medical report highlighting the importance of the gut systems to our immune systems was published in mainstream media. So there is useful information out there from many sources ….. don’t shutter out all the non medically approved data. Yes … there is a whole raft of nonsense …. but hidden within may just be things that help you to cope, to feel more alive, to be well …… whatever works for YOU and YOU alone. Just please don’t hope for the “magic bullet” because it doesn’t exist …. or not yet anyway.