The American Cancer Society Trivializes Cancer Risks: Blatant Conflicts of Interest

The May 6 report by the President's Cancer Panel is well-documented. It warns of scientific evidence on avoidable causes of cancer from exposure to carcinogens in air, water, products and the workplace.
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The May 6 report by the President's Cancer Panel is well-documented. It warns of scientific evidence on avoidable causes of cancer from exposure to carcinogens in air, water, consumer products, and the workplace. It also warns of hormonal risks from exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA) and other toxic plastic contaminants.

Concerns on avoidable causes of cancer have been summarized in a January 23, 2009 Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC) press release, endorsed by 20 leading scientists and public policy experts, who urged that President Obama's cancer plan should prioritize prevention. These concerns were further detailed in a June 15, 2009 press release. Warnings of the risks of BPA are also detailed in a May 7, 2010 CPC release.

Some of the more startling realities in the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) and the "non-profit" American Cancer Society's (ACS) long-standing failure to prevent a very wide range of cancers are illustrated by their soaring increases from 1975 to 2005.

These include:

•Malignant melanoma of the skin in adults has increased by 168 percent due to the use of sunscreens in childhood that fail to block long wave ultraviolet light;

•Thyroid cancer has increased by 124 percent due in large part to ionizing radiation;

•Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has increased 76 percent due mostly to phenoxy herbicides; and phenylenediamine hair dyes;

•Testicular cancer has increased by 49 percent due to pesticides; hormonal ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products; and estrogen residues in meat;

•Childhood leukemia has increased by 55 percent due to ionizing radiation; domestic pesticides; nitrite preservatives in meats, particularly hot dogs; and parental exposures to occupational carcinogens;

•Ovary cancer (mortality) for women over the age of 65 has increased by 47 percent in African American women and 13 percent in Caucasian women due to genital use of talc powder;

•Breast cancer has increased 17 percent due to a wide range of factors. These include: birth control pills; estrogen replacement therapy; toxic hormonal ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products; diagnostic radiation; and routine premenopausal mammography, with a cumulative breast dose exposure of up to about five rads over 10 years.

Criticisms by the ACS that the President's Cancer Panel's report exaggerates avoidable cancer

In 1993, the nation's leading charity watch dog, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, warned against the transfer of money from the public purse to the private hands of the ACS. The Chronicle also warned that "The ACS is more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives." These warnings are fully supported by the track record of the ACS for well over the last four decades.

1971: The ACS refused to testify at Congressional hearings requiring FDA to ban the intramuscular injection of diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogenic hormone, to fatten cattle, prior to their entry into feedlots prior to slaughter, despite unequivocal evidence of its carcinogenicity, and the cancer risks of eating hormonal meat. Not surprisingly, U.S. meat is outlawed by most nations worldwide.

1977: The ACS opposed regulating black or dark brown hair dyes, based on paraphenylenediamine, in spite of clear evidence of its risks of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, besides other cancers.

1978: Tony Mazzocchi, then senior international union labor representative, protested that "Occupational safety standards have received no support from the ACS." This has resulted in the increasing incidence of a wide range of avoidable cancers.

1978: Cong. Paul Rogers censured ACS for its failure to support the Clean Air Act in order to protect interests of the automobile industry.

1982: The ACS adopted restrictive cancer policies, rejecting evidence based on standard rodent tests, which are widely accepted by governmental agencies worldwide and also by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

1984: The ACS created the industry-funded October National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to falsely assure women that "early (mammography) detection results in a cure nearly 100 percent of the time." Responding to question, ACS admitted: "Mammography today is a lucrative [and] highly competitive business." Also, the Awareness Month ignores substantial information on avoidable causes of breast cancer.

1992: The ACS supported the Chlorine Institute in defending the continued use of carcinogenic chlorinated pesticides, despite their environmental persistence and carcinogenicity.
1993: Anticipating the Public Broadcast Service (PBS) Frontline special "In Our Children's Food," the ACS trivialized pesticides as a cause of childhood cancer and charged PBS with "junk science." The ACS went further by questioning, "Can we afford the PBS?"

1994: The ACS published a highly flawed study designed to trivialize cancer risks from the use of dark hair dyes.

1998: The ACS allocated $330,000, under 1 percent of its then $680 million budget, to claimed research on environmental cancer.

1999: The ACS trivialized risks of breast, colon and prostate cancers from consumption of rBGH genetically modified milk. Not surprisingly, U.S. milk is outlawed by most nations worldwide.

2002: The ACS announced its active participation in the "Look Good...Feel Better Program," launched in 1989 by the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, to "help women cancer patients restore their appearance and self-image following chemotherapy and radiation treatment." This program was partnered by a wide range of leading cosmetics industries, which recklessly, if not criminally, failed to disclose information on the carcinogenic, and other toxic ingredients in their products donated to unsuspecting women.

2002: The ACS reassured the nation that carcinogenicity exposures from dietary pesticides, "toxic waste in dump sites, "ionizing radiation from "closely controlled" nuclear power plants, and non-ionizing radiation, are all "at such low levels that cancer risks are negligible." ACS indifference to cancer prevention became further embedded in national cancer policy, following the appointment of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, ACS Past President-Elect, as NCI Director.

2005: The ACS indifference to cancer prevention other than smoking, remains unchanged, despite the escalating incidence of cancer, and its $ billion budget.

The ACS's indifference to cancer prevention also reflects major conflicts of interest with regard to public relations

•1998-2000: PR for the ACS was handled by Shandwick International, whose major clients included R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings.
•2000-2002: PR for the ACS was handled by Edelman Public Relations, whose major clients included Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, and the Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris, Kraft, and fast food and soft drink beverage companies. All these companies were promptly dismissed once this information was revealed by the CPC.

The ACS's indifference to cancer prevention reflects major industry funding. ACS has received contributions in excess of $100,000 from a wide range of "Excalibur Donors," many of whom continue to manufacture carcinogenic products. These include:

•Petrochemical companies (DuPont; BP; and Pennzoil)
•Industrial waste companies (BFI Waste Systems)
•Junk food companies (Wendy's International; McDonalds's; Unilever/Best Foods; and Coca-Cola)
•Big Pharma (AstraZenceca; Bristol Myers Squibb; GlaxoSmithKline; Merck & Company; and Novartis)
•Biotech companies (Amgen; and Genentech)
•Cosmetic companies (Christian Dior; Avon; Revlon; Elizabeth Arden; and Estee Lauder)
•Auto companies (Nissan; General Motors)

Nevertheless, in spite of this long-standing track record of flagrant conflicts of interest, as reported in the December 8, 2009 New York Times, the ACS responded that it "holds itself to the highest standards of transparency and public accountability."

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; The 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; and author of over 270 scientific articles and 20 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including the groundbreaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), Cancer-Gate: How To Win The Losing Cancer War (2005), and Toxic Beauty (2009, BenBella Books).

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC)
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Chicago, Illinois
Tel: 312-996-2297
Please join the CPC on Facebook

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