Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society skewered in new book
by leading cancer expert
new book by leading cancer expert, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, skewers
the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society and blames
the organizations for America losing the war against cancer.
In the book,
Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society: Criminal Indifference
to Cancer Prevention and Conflicts of Interest," Epstein
argues that the NCI and ACS have spent tens of billions of taxpayer
and charity dollars focusing on treatment to the exclusion of prevention,
which has allowed cancer rates to skyrocket, with the disease now
affecting nearly one in two men and more than one in three women.
Furthermore, the author claims that not only do numerous conflicts
of interest exist within the NCI and ACS, but the NCI and ACS are
also withholding a mass of information on avoidable causes of cancer.
has served as a consultant for the U.S. Senate Committee on Public
Works, is an internationally recognized authority on avoidable causes
of cancer, particularly carcinogen exposure through conduits such
as food, air, water, household products, cosmetics, prescription
drugs or industrial carcinogens in the workplace.
Epstein is professor
emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University
of Illinois School of Public Health and chairman of the Cancer Prevention
Coalition. He has published more than 270-peer reviewed articles
and 20 books, including the prize-winning 1978 The Politics of Cancer,
and has appeared on national media, including NPR, 60 Minutes, Face
the Nation, Meet the Press, The McNeil/Lehrer News Hour, Good Morning
America and The Today Show. He was a key expert in the banning of
hazardous products including DDT, chlordane and aldrin. In his new
book, he is now the leading critic of the cancer establishment for
its indifference to prevention of the disease, which, for the ACS,
he claims, borders on hostility.
skyrockets along with cancer rates,
followed by exaggerated claims of progress
The cancer industry
has made a series of misleading claims about the advances in the
war against cancer over the past three decades, wrote Epstein.
Some of the
false claims, according to Epstein, include the industry's 1984
announcement by the NCI that cancer mortality would be halved by
2000, the 1998 NCI and ACS Report Card announcement of a reversal
in the almost twenty-year trend of increasing cancer incidence and
death, and the 2003 pledge by NCI Director and former ACS president-elect
Andrew von Eschenbach to "eliminate suffering and death from
cancer by 2015."
The NCI, ACS
and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also claimed
that "considerable progress has been made in reducing the [number
of people with cancer] in the U.S. population" in its 2003
"Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2000."
The claim, however,
is not consistent with NCI's own data, Epstein said, which shows
the overall number of people with cancer and incidence rates actually
increased by 18 percent. The data also shows a dramatic increase
in nonsmoking-related cancers, according to Epstein, including a
104 percent increase in liver cancer, an 88 percent increase in
prostate cancer, a 54 percent increase in thyroid and testicular
cancer, a 29 percent increase in breast cancer and a 14 percent
increase in brain cancer. Epstein also notes the overall cancer
mortality rates have remained unchanged and have increased by six
percent for blacks.
It seems that
the more we spend on cancer, the more cancer we get, Epstein said,
because while the number of people with cancer goes up, so does
the NCI budget paid for by taxpayers and charity. The NCI budget
has increased 25-fold, from $220 million to $4.6 billion, between
1971 and 2000.
is the key
on "damage control" instead of prevention is the root
cause of the booming cancer rates in the face of billions of dollars
aimed at elimination of the disease, according to Epstein.
He claims the
NCI priorities are all wrong. The opening statement of the NCI's
2001 Cancer Facts report says that "cancer prevention is a
major component and current priority to reduce suffering
and death from cancer." Meanwhile the report claimed that only
12 percent of the NCI's then $3.75 billion budget was allocated
that the actual attention to prevention is probably even less, by
citing an analysis of a 1992 NCI budget showing that less than 2.5
percent of its then $2 billion budget was spent on prevention.
crucifies NCI stating that prevention tactics defined by NCI only
covered the value of avoiding smoking and a bad diet, while wholly
ignoring the myriad of environmental and occupational carcinogens.
ACS withholding a mass of cancer prevention information
The NCI has
failed to inform the public of published scientific information
on a wide range of avoidable causes of multiple cancers, Epstein
Epstein, there are three major categories of avoidable causes including:
contaminants in air, water, soil, the workplace, and food;
ingredients in consumer products, particularly pesticides;
prescription drugs and high-dose diagnostic radiation, particularly
pediatric CAT scans.
"NCI's silence on cancer prevention is in flagrant violation
of the 1971 National Cancer Act's specific charge to disseminate
cancer information to the public. This silence is in further violation
of the 1988 Amendments to the National Cancer Program, which called
for an expanded and intensified research program for the prevention
of cancer caused by occupational or environmental exposure to carcinogens."
this NCI failure to inform Congress and regulatory agencies of avoidable
carcinogens for encouraging petrochemical and other industries to
continue manufacturing products containing carcinogens and encouraging
corporate polluters to continue polluting.
to publicizing avoidable carcinogens has even gone as far as suppression
and denial, Epstein said, quoting the following examples:
the Department of Health and Human Services directed NCI to investigate
the risks of thyroid cancer from I-131 radioactive fallout following
atom bomb tests in Nevada in the late 1950s and early 1960s."
its report in 1997, based on data which had been available for over
fourteen years, predicting up to 210,000 thyroid cancers from radioactive
fallout. These cancers, whose incidence has almost doubled since
1973, could have been readily prevented had the NCI warned the public
in time and advised them to take thyroid medication."
"At a September
1999 hearing by the Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Government
Affairs, former Senator John Glenn (D-OH) charged that the NCI investigation
was plagued by lack of public participation and openness. Senator
Tom Harkin (D-IA) charged that NCI's conduct was a travesty."
[Just] as serious
is NCI's frank suppression of information. At a 1996 San Francisco
Town Hall Meeting on breast cancer, chaired by Congresswoman Nancy
Pelosi (D-CA), former NCI director Richard Klausner insisted that
"low level diagnostic radiation does not demonstrate an increased
risk." However, this was contrary to long-term studies on patients
with spinal curvature (scoliosis), which showed that such radiation
was responsible for 70% excess breast cancer mortality.
ACS has just
as abysmal a track record on prevention as NCI, according to Epstein,
and it has been and remains the target of periodic attacks by leading
scientists and public interest groups.
One attack in
a 1994 press release by the Center for Science in the Public Interest
stated, "A group of 24 scientists charged that the ACS was
doing little to protect the public from cancer-causing chemicals
in the environment and workplace. The scientists urged ACS to revamp
its policies and to emphasize prevention in its lobbying and educational
criticized ACS for requiring human evidence of carcinogenic effects
before implementing regulation, saying that they had an unrealistically
high action threshold. The scientists included: Harvard University
Nobel Laureates Matthew Meselson and George Wald; former Occupational
Safety and Health Director Eula Bingham; and past president of the
Public Health Association, Anthony Robbins.
One major instance
of ACS ignoring the science, according to Epstein, was in 1993 when
they came out in support of the pesticide industry just before the
airing of the PBS Frontline special, "In Our Children's Food."
ACS released a memorandum in which it trivialized pesticides as
a cause of childhood cancers, and reassured the public that pesticide
residues were safe, even for infants.
shocking is the failure of the NCI and ACS to inform the public
of the increasing incidence of childhood cancers, which has escalated
to alarming rates, according to Epstein. The Cancer Prevention Coalition's
2003 report said that childhood cancers have increased by 32 percent
between 1975 and 2000 and that cancer is one of the leading causes
of death in children, second only to accidents.
Even more shocking,
the NCI claims that "the causes of childhood cancer are largely
unknown." This is diametrically opposed to substantial scientific
evidence, according to Epstein, which shows that children are exposed
to numerous avoidable carcinogens, including everything from X-rays,
prescription drugs, pesticides and contaminants in beauty products
to petrochemical and industrial pollutants, radioactive pollutants
in the air and drinking water, and pollutants from hazardous waste
In 2000, the
industry publication Cancer Letter had a commentary on ACS'
behind-the-scenes creation of a legislative committee to gain major
control of national cancer policy, according to Epstein. In the
commentary, former executive president of the American Society of
Clinical Oncologists Dr. John Durant shared his assessment of ACS
always seemed to me that was an issue of control by the ACS over
the cancer agenda," Durant said. "They are protecting
their own fundraising capacity [from competition by survivor groups.]"
on treatment looks likely to remain if, as Epstein shows, the ACS
and NCI are in bed with those who profit from a treatment focus.
half of the members of the ACS board are doctors and scientists
with close ties to the NCI, Epstein said. Many of the board members
and their colleagues obtain funding from both the ACS and NCI, he
said. Frank conflicts of interest are evident in many ACS priorities,
according to Epstein, including the two major examples of mammography
and cancer drugs.
has close connections to the mammography industry," Epstein
writes. "Five radiologists have served as ACS presidents, and
in its every move, the ACS reflects the interests of the major manufacturers
of mammogram machines and films ... In fact, if every woman followed
the ACS and NCI mammography guidelines, the annual revenue to health
care facilities would be a staggering $5 billion.
continues to lure women of all ages into mammography centers, leading
them to believe that mammography is their best hope against breast
cancer. A leading Massachusetts newspaper featured a photograph
of two women in their twenties in an ACS advertisement that promised
early detection results in a cure "nearly 100 percent of the
An ACS communications
director responded .... "The ad isn't based on a study. When
you make an advertisement, you just say what you can to get women
in the door. You exaggerate a point. Mammography today is a lucrative
[and] highly competitive business."
exposes premenopausal women to radiation hazards from mammography
with little or no evidence of benefits," Epstein said. "The
ACS also fails to tell them that their breasts will change so much
over time that the 'baseline' images have little or no future relevance."
The cancer drug
industry is even more lucrative than mammography with annual sales
over $12 billion. The intimate association between ACS and the pharmaceutical
industry is illustrated, Epstein said, by the unbridled aggression
which ACS directs at its critics.
a Committee on Unproven Methods of Cancer Management, which periodically
reviews unorthodox or alternative therapies," Epstein wrote.
"This committee is comprised of volunteer health care professionals,
carefully selected proponents of orthodox, expensive, and usually
toxic drugs patented by major pharmaceutical companies, and opponents
of alternative or unproven therapies that are generally cheap, and
the committee updates its statements on unproven methods, which
are then widely disseminated to clinicians, cheerleader science
writers, and the public. Once a clinician or oncologist becomes
associated with unproven methods, he or she is blackmailed by the
cancer establishment. Funding for the accused quack becomes inaccessible,
followed by systematic harassment.
biased ACS witch-hunts against alternative practitioners are in
striking contrast to its extravagant and uncritical endorsement
of conventional toxic chemotherapy. This despite the absence of
any objective evidence of improved survival rates or reduced mortality
following chemotherapy for all but some relatively rare cancers."
The cancer industry's
favor of pharmaceutical products is evidenced, Epstein said, "by
the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved
approximately 40 patented drugs for cancer treatment, while it has
yet to approve a single nonpatented alternative drug."
Epstein, "Dr. Samuel Broder, NCI director from 1989 to 1995,
frankly admitted, in a 1998 Washington Post interview, that 'the
NCI has become what amounts to a government pharmaceutical company.'
Taxpayers have funded R & D and expensive clinical trials for
over two-thirds of cancer drugs on the market. These drugs are given,
with exclusive rights, to the industry, which sells them at inflated
NCI reform is
two decades overdue, Epstein wrote, based in part on "The Stop
Cancer Before it Starts Campaign: How to win the Losing War against
Cancer," which is a 2003 report sponsored by eight leading
cancer prevention experts and endorsed by over one hundred activists
and citizen groups.
reforms were proposed in 1992 at a Cancer Prevention Coalition press
conference, a group of 68 leading cancer prevention and public health
experts, past directors of federal agencies, and citizen activists
across the nation. But prophetically, the press release concluded,
"There is no likelihood that such reforms will be implemented
without legislative action."
And the ACS
has done no better, according to Epstein.
is unassailable," Epstein said. "The ACS bears a major
decades-long responsibility for losing the winnable war against
cancer. Reforming the ACS is, in principle, relatively easy and
directly achievable. Boycott the ACS. Instead, give your charitable
contributions to public interest and environmental groups involved
in cancer prevention. Such a boycott is well overdue and will send
the only message this charity can no longer ignore."
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