A Skeptical Look at Chris Wark
and His "Healing Journey"

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Christopher David Wark would like you to believe he can help you prevent and treat cancer. He claims that his personal experience as a cancer patient and his subsequent "research" qualify him to do this. He presents his story this way:

In 2003, I was diagnosed with colon cancer at 26 years old. Shocked and confused, I was rushed into surgery a week later. They removed a third of my colon and gave me more bad news. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. They told me I was stage IIIc and I would need 9-12 months of chemotherapy. They also told me I only had a 60% chance of living five years if I took the chemo route. When I asked the oncologist if there were any alternative therapies available he said, "No. There are none. If you don't do chemotherapy, you're INSANE."

I was afraid to go against my doctors orders, but deep down I felt that chemotherapy was not the right path for me. So I said no to chemo. It was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make, and I had very little support, but I truly believed that radically changing my diet and my life was my best option for survival. And it worked! Today, I'm alive and cancer free, and in the best shape of my life! I've spent the last 12 years learning from holistic doctors, researchers, and other survivors like me, who've beaten the odds and healed cancer as well. I've taken what I've learned and created hundreds of free articles and videos about health and healing on chrisbeatcancer.com, a site that now reaches over 1 million people per year. If you're new to the world of nutrition and natural cancer therapies, and you're ready to take action, but you're feeling overwhelmed, and don't know where to start, I've got great news. I've organized all my research into a simple, easy-to-follow online course for you. . . The SQUARE ONE Healing Cancer Coaching Program [1].

The Square One program is composed of ten modules that cover about 70 topics. The first module is available free of charge. The price for the rest is $197, but "for a limited time," he says, the "discounted" cost is $97 [2]. The Whois file for chrisbeatcancer.com states that the domain was registered in 2010.

Background History

From 2012 until 2016 (when Wark launched the Square One program), the site advertised individual "health and cancer coaching" by him for $100 for an hour and $175 for two hours [1]. He also maintains an e-mail list through which he sends news and plugs for his productions. In a recent issue, he stated: "Even though the course is focused on helping people heal cancer, the principles for healing and preventing cancer (and nearly all chronic diseases) are the same!" [2]

Wark's curriculum vitae states that he obtained a bachelors degree in business administration marketing/management from the University of Memphis in 2001 and became a real estate investor in 2002 [3]. The site's FAQ page states that in 2004, after reading a book by George Malkmus, Wark adopted a raw-food vegan diet with periodic juice fasts [4]. He also began took an "anti-cancer supplement protocol" recommended by John Smothers and monitored by the late Roy Page, M.D.

Reasons for Skepticism

To determine whether a method is effective, it is necessary to see whether people with similar tumors do better with that method than they do with other methods or with no treatment. Individual case reports occasionally give clues that are worth investigating further, but the course of cancers is sufficiently variable that no single report should be regarded as proof of effectiveness. Wark says he underwent surgery for colon cancer 14 years ago, has not had a recurrence, and is presumably cured. He insists that his dietary and lifestyle strategies did the job, but David Gorski, a cancer surgeon/researcher, has exploded Wark's story this way:

Wark states that he had stage III colon cancer. What this means is that the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes. Sure, it's a bit more complicated than that. There are stage IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC colon cancer, the A, B, or C part depending upon the number of involved lymph nodes and whether the tumor has invaded through various layers of the colon or not. . . . These "flavors" of stage III share one thing in common, and that's that the tumor has spread to regional lymph nodes. . . .

The primary treatment for stage III colorectal cancer is . . . complete surgical resection. Everything else is icing on the cake. To illustrate this point, I ran an Adjuvant! Online estimate for the benefit of chemotherapy for a patient like Wark, who was 26 at the time of his diagnosis. Most likely, [his cancer] was stage IIIB. . . . For purposes of discussion, I am going to assume he had stage IIIB disease. It's close enough to make the point, and if he had stage IIIC disease, it would only make the case for chemotherapy stronger.

There are . . . two main chemotherapy regimens for colorectal cancer. One is basically 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) plus leucovorin and has been the mainstay of treatment of colon cancer for decades. However, over the last 10 or 15 years, a newer, more effective regimen known as FOLFOX has been developed that includes 5-FU, leucovorin, and oxaliplatin. . . . In both cases, with surgery alone, Mr. Wark's odds of surviving five years are around 64%. That's pretty good for such advanced disease, but we can do better. 5-FU-based chemotherapy regimens increase those odds by around 12% to a 76% chance of surviving five years. FOLFOX . . . does even better, increasing the odds of surviving five years . . . all the way to 80%. Since colon cancer . . . rarely recurs after five years, five-year survival rates in colon cancer are pretty close to equivalent to the chances of being "cured" of colon cancer. So basically, by eschewing chemotherapy, Mr. Wark decreased his chances of surviving his disease by approximately 12-16%. . . . Although he was lucky that his refusing chemotherapy didn't put him into that 12-16% of similar patients for whom chemotherapy prevents a recurrence, the odds of his surviving were still in his favor if my educated guess about his stage at diagnosis is reasonably accurate. If, however, I underestimated his stage and he had stage IIIC disease, the argument for chemotherapy would be even stronger. . . .

He is, quite simply, wrong that surgery does not cure cancer. For solid tumors like colon cancer, surgery is almost always the only way it can be cured. . . . It is sad that Mr. Wark decided to decrease is odds of surviving his disease, particularly given how young he was at the time of diagnosis. It is even sadder still that he has decided to dedicate his life to persuading other cancer patients to make the same foolish choice that he did. As for "survivors that have healed cancer without surgery," . . . these stories rarely stand up to scrutiny either. In any case, looking at his testimonial, I see that his oncologist estimated that he had a 60% chance of survival. It's not clear whether that is with or without chemotherapy, but most of the time oncologists assume that the patient will accept standard-of-care therapy. That's why this piece of information makes me think that Mr. Wark was closer to a stage IIIC than IIIB and therefore leads me to believe that Mr. Wark took an even bigger chance with his life than I had originally thought [7].

One of Wark's articles states that in 2004 he drank so much carrot juice—64 ounces a day for 11 months—that he turned orange [4]. The orange color—a condition called carotenemia—is caused by high levels of beta-carotene found in carrots. Although beta-carotene from food has not been proven harmful, beta-carotene supplements have been proven to increase the incidence of certain cancers. So it seems to me that consuming huge amounts of beta-carotene is unwise.

The Bottom Line

Modern cancer treatment rests on a body of observations made by tens of thousands of experts who have pooled their experience and data. Chris Wark would like you to believe that his personal experience enables him to provide advice that is better than the collective wisdom of the scientific community. He is a skillful storyteller and a talented marketer. He promotes a wide variety of unproven methods and exaggerates the risks of standard treatment. His advice against taking chemotherapy will put some cancer patients at unnecessary risk. He claims that he beat the odds against cancer by changing his diet and lifestyle and can teach you to do the same. I advise you to be skeptical.

References

  1. Let's jumpstart your healing journey. Chris Beat Cancer Web site, accessed March 7, 2017.
  2. Wark C. The feedback blew me away. E-mail, March 7, 2017.
  3. Curriculum vitae: Christoper David Wark. Chris Beat Cancer Web site, accessed March 7, 2017.
  4. FAQ. Chris Beat Cancer Web site, accessed March 7, 2017.
  5. Barrett S. Rev. George M. Malkmus and his Hallelujah Diet. Quackwatch, May 29, 2003.
  6. Barrett S. Roy Page, M.D. surrenders medical license. Casewatch, March 6, 2017.
  7. Gorski D. Yes, Chris beat cancer, but it wasn't quackery that cured him. Science-Based Medicine, October 13, 2013.

This article was revised on March 13, 2017.

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