The Amish and cancer: Clean living can lead to a healthier life

The Amish and cancer: Clean living can lead to a healthier life

Written by  Facing Cancer Together
  • Bookmark and Share

How do cancer rates in the Amish community compare to cancer rates in the rest of the population?  A geneticist at the Ohio University set out to answer that question.

amish-buggyDr. Judith Westman is a geneticist and division director of Human Genetics at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James). She conducted an 8-year study on 24 different types of cancer within the Amish community.  She went door-to-door and documented cancer case by case.

What she found surprised her.  Scroll down to watch the video.

She was expecting to find pockets of increased cancer, as intermarriage within this relatively small population could increase incidence of cancer-related gene mutations.  But she quickly found out that the Amish had lower cancer rates overall and did not have a strongly inherited susceptibility to cancer.

amish-clothesIn fact, the Amish cancer rate was 40% lower than the rest of the population in Ohio.  Tobacco-related cancer was strikingly lower in the Amish, around 63% lower than the rest of the population. This is due to their clean lifestyle that discourages tobacco and alcohol use.  But, Westman says that other types of cancer were significantly lower as well in the Amish population.

She said that she witnessed almost no occurrences of cervical cancer, which may be due to their monogamous relationships and low sexual promiscuity rates.  The Amish might be a little overweight from a BMI perspective, but men and women are active and hard workers well into their later years which may be a helpful factor for health.  Despite the fact many Amish make their living working outdoors where they are exposed harmful UV rays, they have a lower rate for skin cancer.  They typically cover themselves while working in the sun by wearing wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts for skin protection.

amish-lancasterWestman wants to explore other reasons the Amish are not commonly-diagnosed with cancer.  She’s curious to see if there’s some sort of genetic protection that the Amish have.

WATCH: To learn more about the Amish, tune into “The Amish,” a special AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentary.

With unprecedented access to the Amish built on patience and hard-won trust, the film is the first to deeply penetrate and explore this profoundly attention-averse group and includes the voices of those close to the murdered schoolgirls.

Written and directed by David Belton and produced by Callie T. Wiser, The Amish premieres on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 8 p.m. EST on witf.

amish-cartAdditionally, on February 27, two people involved in the making of The Amish will be guests on Radio Smart Talk at 9 a.m. EST.

Filmed over the course of a year, The Amish answers many questions Americans have about this insular religious community. Their intense faith and strict adherence to 300-year-old traditions have by turn captivated and repelled, awed and irritated, inspired and confused America for more than a century. An extraordinarily intimate portrait of contemporary Amish faith and life, the film questions why and how the Amish, an insistently closed and communal culture, have thrived within one of the most open, individualistic societies on earth; explores how, despite their ingrained submissiveness, the Amish have successfully asserted themselves in resisting the encroachments of modern society and government; asks what our fascination with the Amish says about deep American values; and looks at what the future holds for a community whose existence is so rooted in the past.

Related Video


#11 Anthony 2013-11-11 09:53
Free the sheeple: Many good points, except the China Study is bull. It isn't good science as it tries to extrapolate attributes in his studies done with one animal protein, milk casein, to all animal protein. In fact, another animal protein, whey, coincidentally found in milk s well, protects against cancer. Not cool. Not factual. Not good science. Seems to me he has an agenda.
#10 Free the sheeple 2013-02-12 23:14
Sorry in advance for the long post, but I think this needed to be shared.
#9 Cont.. 2013-02-12 23:11
1 of 5
How can we after all this time and all the studies STILL say things like "some sort of genetic protection". I would highly recommend reading a book called "The China Study" this was based on one of the largest biomedical studies ever in the history of mankind. The Premier of China at the time was dying of bladder cancer he vowed that he would find the cause of cancer......and he did!

The Study was done back in the mid 1970's, involved over 880,000,000 people (almost a billion!!!!) They noticed an interesting trend the women living in the rural poor areas of China had a very low chance of cancer 1 in 10,000, almost zero! Yet affluent Chinese women (keep in mind from the same genetics) living in the large cities had the same high cancer rates that we have here in America.

The book is written by Dr Colin T Campbell world renowned biomedical researcher.
#8 Cont.. 2013-02-12 23:06
2 of 5
The Amish cancer rates are 40% lower but what about the other cultures like the Hunza, Abkhasia, Vilcabamba and Okinawa, that have ZERO cancer rates, ZERO disease and live to be well over 100 years old, some living up to 140 years of age. I think the way the Amish live (hard working, having a sense of purpose, close community, religious and cleaner food) these all together add up to a healthier body. The other cultures that have ZERO cancer live by the same principals. Personally I feel that the Amish could have even lower cancer rates if they understood some basic principals about diet and health.

The Longevity Diet: Secrets to living a healthy and long-lasting life
#7 Free the sheeple 2013-02-12 22:14
3 of 5
Many of the Amish have dairy farms and they typically eat what we would call an organic “whole food” diet. This type of diet is healthier than the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) which has been shown to create a extremely high risk of disease, but it’s not fool proof. I think the Amish are doing everything else right, but they could easily get into trouble with their diet, this is just my opinion, based on 30 years of my own reading/researching.

What I mean by this is that some Amish might depend more on animal products (beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs), these have typically been shown to increase the risk of diseases like cancer. The China Study found a direct relationship between consuming animal products and cancer, they could turn the cancer on and off like a light switch by varying the amount of animal protein. Some Amish are also shopping in mainstream grocery stores and eating fast food.
#6 Free the sheeple 2013-02-12 22:13
4 of 5
Even if you don’t believe the 30 years worth of research that Dr Campbell put into the China study, just look at the other cultures that have zero cancer, they eat very little if any animal products.

Another fact ALL the diets (Gerson Diet, Hallelujah Diet) that reverse cancer are always vegan (100% animal product free) and they are at least 80% raw. These types of diets are very alkalizing to the body and are high in enzymes, both of these factors are the KEYS to why the cancer curing diets work. You don’t have to believe what I’m saying just go to the Gerson or website and read the thousands of testimonies, over 10,000 people have tried the Hallelujah Diet alone, with AMAZING results!!!!!!!! I’ve personally talked with many people, one man cured stage 4 terminal cancer (said to be incurable by doctors) in just a matter of 6 months using the Hallelujah Diet. He was 100% cancer free in 6 months, PET scans proved this!!!!!
#5 Free the sheeple 2013-02-12 22:12
5 of 5
YES diet is a big factor but it is the combination of factors like these (hard working, having a sense of purpose, close community, religious, low toxic/chemical exposure and cleaner food) that is the real reason the Amish have lower cancer rates. This again is just my opinion based on things I have seen and read over the past 35+ years.

Just sharing things I have learned in hopes to help others, if you want to argue my point please do the research first.
#4 Andrea 2012-10-05 22:39
Sorry, that's "France", not "Grance"!
#3 Andrea 2012-10-05 22:37
I, too, was astonished that food supply was not mentioned. I have recently become very interested in the use of GMO's in our food production and think that much more research needs to be done in the area of GMO consumption and increasing cancer rates. I am 39 years old and could name six friends and acquantances under the age of 40 that currently have cancer. Something is not right. GMO's were first introduces into our food supply in 1994 and I think it is no coincidence that cancer rates are rising in young people, especially in light of the recent study that was performed in Grance positively linking GMO consumption and herbicide consumption to an increase in cancerous tumors.
#2 FacingCancer 2012-09-24 16:21
Shawna, thanks for your insightful comments about this story. It seems as though there is a lot that we can learn from their way of life, and food is certainly a big part of their healthy lifestyle. We would like to learn more as well! Thanks again for your comments!

A message from the Facing Cancer Together team: We invite you to join us in this community partnership. Share. Connect. Learn. No matter how cancer has affected you, our multimedia tools can help you gain confidence in your choices. In the coming months, this site will evolve with your participation. Meet the team!

Sponsored by

witf Lancaster General Health Pinnacle Health System Wellspan
witf Pinnacle Health System Wellspan Lancaster General Health
witf Wellspan Lancaster General Health Pinnacle Health System