Updated: Nov 16
In 2013, Dean Hall was dying of an incurable leukemia. Resolved to do something before he died that would inspire other cancer patients, he swam the entire length of the cold Willamette River in Oregon. When he finished, his leukemia was gone.
Dean's amazing recovery reinforces that deliberate cold exposure and exercise will inhibit tumor growth by starving cancer cells of glucose, and killing them with ketones.
Since his reversal, a number of scientific studies have been published that explain the mechanisms of Dean's reversal.
Dean remains 100% free of cancer to this day.
Cold water swimming cured Dean's cancer
One day in 2013, Dean Hall looked at himself in the mirror. He saw his swollen lymph nodes and shrinking muscles and thought to himself, "You know, if I let the leukemia take me, no one would ever know that I gave up."
He was despondent and depressed, like many of the people who suffer from cancer. He'd already survived one cancer diagnosis, only to lose his first wife of 30 years to an inoperable brain tumor. But in that moment he reminded himself that he still had a 21-year-old daughter.
Dean decided that death was a not a luxury he could afford.
He resolved to do something he'd fantasized about as a kid. Something that might inspire other cancer patients.
He would swim the English Channel before he died.
So Dean called his doctor and told what he planned to do. His doctor said, "Dean if you get in a public pool, with your immune system worn down from leukemia, it will kill you,"
In other words, Dean Hall had nothing left to lose.
Metabolic therapies for cancer
What Dean didn't know when he began training for his cold swim is that the combination of cold exposure, exercise, and ketone production could kill his cancer. Just six years earlier, researchers had hypothesized that cold water swimming could "stimulate anti-tumor immunity" by activating the body's own natural killer cells (Shevchuck & Radoja 2007). It's a hypothesis that has been popular at least since the 1930's, when Russian mystic Porfiry Ivanov famously claimed that cold exposure cured him of terminal cancer he suffered in middle age. He lived to the age of 85, dying in 1983 after gaining a cult-like following to whom he proselytized about the health benefits of cold exposure, hunger, and exercise.
However, it wasn't until 2022 that researchers in Sweden (Seki et al. 2022) demonstrated that the mechanism by which deliberate cold exposure inhibits tumor growth is likely activation of brown fat. As I wrote in Ice Bath Cryotherapy for Cancer, this new study demonstrated that "mice implanted with colorectal tumors and subjected to 4C cold air exposure lived longer and experienced slower tumor growth than mice kept at warmer temperatures. The researchers attribute this to the fact that cold exposure activates and recruits new brown fat, and clears glucose from the blood stream."
The majority of cancers have a gene that is up-regulated for glucose metabolism, because glucose is the only food that is so energy-dense it can fuel cancer's unmitigated growth. As such, Thomas Seyfried, PhD describes cancer as a metabolic, mitochondrial disease (Seyfried 2015, 2012). According Seyfried, mutations in the nucleic DNA of cancer cells are a symptom of cancer, not the cause.
The real cause of cancer is disorders of cell metabolism that originate in the mitochondria.
In his popular book, Tripping Over the Truth (2017), Travis Christofferson summarizes a devastating critique of genetic theories of the origins of cancer, and postulates instead a convincing metabolic theory. According to Christofferson, cancer cells are unique in that they obtain energy exclusively by fermenting glucose (a simple sugar), whereas normal cells can metabolize either glucose or fat. Whereas the genetic theory of cancer claims that cancer originates from mutations in the cell DNA, the metabolic theory states that it originates from defects in the mitochondria that provide energy to the cell.
This has profound implications for treatment of cancer. Based on that fact that tumor cells compete for finite stores of glucose within in body, depletion of glucose can "suppress systemic growth of malignant cell types," including leukemia (Ye et al. 2018). Further, Seyfried's work has demonstrated that ketones inhibit tumor growth (e.g., Seyfried et al. 2014), suggesting that Dean's cold water swimming both starved his cancer by depriving it of glucose and killed it by putting his metabolism into ketosis.
Swimming in miracles
In 2013, Dean Hall became the first person to swim the entire 184 miles of the Williamette River that flows through Portland, Oregon. Then, in 2017, he swam the entire length--over 150 miles--of the Shannon River in Ireland.
It took him over 3 weeks, and you can read more about it, in his own words, on his website swimminginmiracles.
But Dean has taken cold water swimming to an extreme level that most people don't even begin to contemplate. What can people learn from Dean's experience of complete remission without radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery?
Without swimming all day in freezing rivers, you might be able to manage your cancer risks with a combination of fasting from carbohydrates, exercise, and deliberate cold exposure.
Fasting from carbohydrates does two things that promote the destruction of cancer cells:
Fasting starves the cancer cells of the glucose they need to metabolize. As a consequence, the cancer cells die and are reabsorbed into the body in a process called autophagy.
As blood glucose levels drop, the body switches to fat metabolism instead -- i.e, burning lipids released from white fat cells to sustain body operations in a process called ketosis -- producing ketone bodies that are toxic to cancer cells, but healthy for normal cells (e.g., Seyfreid et al 2003).
Well documented cases of people on hunger strikes indicate that even lean people can survive for weeks without eating, metabolizing fat alone. At the extreme, one obese man maintained a medically supervised fast for over a year without eating any food at all. Fortunately, most people can achieve a state of ketosis in just a few days, by eating only healthy fats and protein, in what is called a ketogenic diet. For example, ketosis has long been prescribed for controlling epileptic seizures in children, and is increasingly reocognized as a remedy for mental health disorders (Palmer 2022).
The systemic health benefits of exercise are well recognized. Exercise improves your muscle tone, metabolism, brain function, and likely delays ageing. What's even more incredible is that intensive exercise stimulate the production of cancer-fighting compounds in your bloodstream.
For example, Canadian researchers ran an experiment in which they collected blood from male subjects "prior to, 5 min, 1 h, and 24 h after a single bout of high-intensity interval exercise on a cycle ergometer" (Kurgan et al.