Today cancer is without a doubt one of our greatest concerns as a society. Science and medicine have tried to unravel its mechanisms, not just to try to stop it from occurring but also to offer patients more treatment options.
If we were to tell you that there’s a population, or rather a particular “kind” of person, for whom the word cancer poses no threat, you might not believe where it is.
Nevertheless, it is so, and in today’s article we want you to join us to learn about this beautiful and special place: the Valley of Vilcabamba in Loja, Ecuador, a cancerless village.
The cancerless village
To understand a little more about this incredible place it’s necessary to tell you about a particular genetic condition: Laron syndrome.
Laron syndrome is a rare, hereditary disease that causes a deficiency in growth. Moreover, this genetic trait creates 100% immunity to cancer and also diabetes.
Let’s explore in more detail.
Laron syndrome: 350 people worldwide
Laron syndrome was first discovered in the early 1950s by Zvi Laron, a doctor from Israel. He became interested in a group of patients who lived in a tiny village in the country and were very small in size.
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Their physical condition went hand in hand with excellent overall health: they could eat whatever they wanted and never suffer from diabetes, and none of them or their ancestors had ever had cancer.
After more than 30 years of research, in 2001 he published his findings about the mechanisms of this curious syndrome. Broadly speaking, these are the key things he found:
- Laron syndrome affects 350 people around the world. The majority of them reside in the Valley of Vilcabamba, in Loja, Ecuador. The rest live in Israel and some Mediterranean countries.
- People who have this genetic condition have very small bodily proportions: they are rarely over three feet tall.
- In addition to their small size, they share certain physiognomic features.
- The origin of this syndrome is a deficiency in growth hormones.
Although the growth hormone, or GH, is produced at normal levels, a lack of another hormone, IGF-1, which is closely related to insulin, prevents GH from being metabolized equally throughout the body.
- This syndrome can only be transmitted when both the mother and father carry the gene.
Laron syndrome – no cancer or diabetes
People with this genetic condition lead a normal life. Aside from their small size, they don’t experience any illnesses or other physical problems.
The effect is so strong that many doctors are surprised when although many of them may have a poor diet, eating high fat, fried and sugary foods, they’ve never developed diabetes or cancer.
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Ever since Laron syndrome was discovered, not a single person has been diagnosed with any of these diseases. The causes could be the following:
- The key to everything lies in the liver and the hormone that slows the release of the growth hormone.
- IGF-1 is essential not only for children to grow, but also once you reach adulthood it continues to promote cellular division—potentially facilitating the spread of cancer.
- Individuals with Laron syndrome are more sensitive to insulin, allowing them to slow the onset of diabetes and other problems related to metabolism.
- The biggest issue for these people occurs during childhood, because they do not develop as they should.
- Once they reach adulthood, however, the deficit in the production of IGF hormone acts as an excellent protection against two of the most common diseases in our society today: cancer and diabetes.
A challenge for science, and hope for those with Laron syndrome
Although they will never develop cancer or diabetes, the lives of people with Laron syndrome aren’t exactly filled with happiness.
Historians believe that they may be descendants of Spanish Sephardic Jews who converted to Christianity and migrated to South America in the sixteenth century.
Regardless, they have always had to face mockery and the social stigma of being “different.”
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Today science is trying to unravel the mechanism of this hormone to imitate it, creating a revolutionary medication to slow the onset of cancer.
So far, experiments are only being carried out in the lab.
Meanwhile, there is now hope for those with Laron syndrome. When a child is diagnosed they have the option of receiving a synthetic form of the IGF-1 hormone. The problem is the cost: around $20,000 a year.
That’s something that few people can expect to pay. Hopefully there is a bright future for the people in this cancerless village, and a cure for cancer in the near future.