When it comes to increasing cancer rates, we've done everything right. We couldn't have done it better if we'd actually planned it.
That's the takeaway from the President's Cancer Panel. Legislatively mandated back in 1971, this prestigious panel just issued its 2009 report. Reading it is an eye-opening experience. I'll synopsize the basic findings here (along with others from other sources) so that if other societies (or other planets) want to replicate our outstanding results in making the world safe for cancer, they can roll up their sleeves and do just what we've done:
• For 35 years, pour billions of dollars into vested institutions aiming to self-perpetuate via a perennial "war on cancer" featuring intense and costly treatments, which, according to a GAO report, failed to substantively increase actual survival rates once you factor in reductions in lung cancer deaths thanks to smoking cessation
• Run massive P.R. campaigns to distract the gullible public (with more birthday cake?) until that lucky day when a "cure" is found. (According to AdWeek, the American Cancer Society, which disputes the Panel Report spends $17 million annually on ads.) iii
That's just for starters. Then the next step is to:
• Fail to look for causes
• Invoke "prevention" as a buzzword while doing nothing substantive
It takes a little work, but if dedicated to the cause, one can:
• Overlook numerous studies that reveal a wide range of cancer causative factors, including pesticides, toxins, metals, pollutants, food additives, industrial chemicals, endocrine disruptors and other carcinogens--80,000 of them in wide use (PCP)
• Allow widespread exposure to these carcinogens (PCP)
• Rather than concede the overall weight of both research and empirical evidence, quibble over a study detail to assure an implacable entrenchment in treating the problem when it's too late
• Pay for your own study if your company has deep pockets. Then play "dueling studies."
A crucial component for success is assuring regulatory policies that:
• Never ask industrial chemical producers to prove chemical safety because... (just give me a moment to come up with a reason) (PCP)
• Give agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, the medical industry, the military, gas and oil companies and food producers carte blanche to pour billions of tons of chemicals and pollutants into everyone's food, personal care, home, baby bottles--whatever--not to mention the public common of air, water and earth (PCP)
• Assign to under-funded government agencies the simple little task of proving which of those 80,000 chemicals are unsafe (PCP)
But even with all of that in place, you still have to be dead certain that your scientific research model:
• Uses an outdated toxicological method that bears no relation to typical toxic exposures (PCP)
• Only studies chemicals one at a time just the way they come out of the lab refrigerator
• Never studies additive, cumulative, synergistic, or long-term effects from multiple exposures because, hey, that's hard! (PCP)
• Can't sort out how different ingredients chemically interact with each other (PCP)
• Can't begin to figure out how they interact within you
• Doesn't want to know what the industries have put this stuff into (PCP)
Oh, and don't overlook one crucial element: It's essential to have a health care model that:
• Claims the human organism can process anything we can dish out
• Cuts out any human body parts that can't
• Never tests an individual's body burden of toxins
• Sneers at detoxification practices
• Recommends to everyone of any age, gender, height, weight, ethnicity, or health status a uniform prescription dosage based on a Western white adult male (PCP)
• Omits medical or product testing for infant or child safety (PCP)
• Never tests drug interactions or synergies even though the average person presently takes nine or more medications; and these drugs enter the water supply
• Recommends radiological testing without consideration that "People who receive multiple scans or other tests that require radiation may accumulate doses equal to or exceeding that of Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors." (PCP)
• Is the third leading cause of death according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
It takes a special kind of synchronicity to get all social forces working together to the point where 41 percent of all Americans will get cancer, and 20 percent will die of it. But there's still more to do. If the Gulf Oil spill fails to cause enough health damage, we can look ahead to the plans in New York State to allow carcinogens into the water table without environmental studies.
As the PCP report points out:
It is more effective to prevent disease than to treat it, but cancer prevention efforts have focused narrowly on smoking, other lifestyle behaviors, and chemopreventive interventions. Scientific evidence on individual and multiple environmental exposure effects on disease initiation and outcomes, and consequent health system and societal costs, are not being adequately integrated into national policy decisions and strategies for disease prevention, health care access and health system reform.
Now, if you're one of those people who don't want to live in a world safer for cancer than it is for men, women, and children, then all I can say is: You'd better sign up with www.saferchemicals.org to support new legislation to actually regulate chemicals for the first time in 36 years. And/or for action alerts on safe chemicals, health, and a healthy environment, health insight, and radio interviews with health leaders, please do sign up at: www.healthjournalist.com
J.C.Bailar and E.M.Smith, "Progress Against Cancer?" New England Journal of Medicine 314 (May 8, 1986):1226- 1232.
"The Cost of Pushing Pills: A New Estimate of Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States," January 3, 2008, PLoS Medicine, the Public Library of Science.
President's Cancer Panel Report 2009, http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf
Starfield B (2000). "Is US health really the best in the world?" Journal of the American Medical Association. 284 (4): 483-5)