“The Politics of Cancer” – by Stephen Lendman
University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition Professor Emeritus Samuel S. Epstein chose the above title for his award-winning 1978 book, updated 20 years later in his important work titled, “The Politics of Cancer Revisited.” More about both books below.
Epstein is an internationally recognized cancer expert and its avoidable causes, especially exposure to industrial carcinogens in air, water, food, consumer products, pesticides, prescription drugs, and workplace environments.
His decades of activities, public advocacy, awards, and distinctions are too numerous to mention. He also authored or co-authored a dozen books, as well as hundreds of peer reviewed articles on public health related issues, ones seldom getting enough mainstream attention if any.
“The Politics of Cancer” explained how exposure to environmental and occupational carcinogens causes cancer. Yet they’re avoidable because safe substitutes exist. Nonetheless, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and American Cancer Society (ACS) – groups Epstein calls “the cancer establishment” – ignore preventable causes, searching for non-existant magic bullet cures. In fact, they allocate minimal budget amounts to prevention while deceiving people to believe they stress it.
As a result, 40 years after Nixon signed the 1971 National Cancer Act, following through on his same year State of the Union promise “to find a cure,” cancer rates have soared. In the 1950s, it affected one in four Americans. Today, it’s half or more. Three-fourths of families have at least one afflicted member. In 2010, 1.4 million Americans were diagnosed with it. Every minute in the US, it kills someone, claiming about 550,000 annual victims, most of them needlessly.
Cancer occurs when body cells divide and spread uncontrollably. If untreated, it metastasizes and kills. Why then is the war on it being lost? According to Epstein, it’s because:
“(t)he cancer establishment is fixated on damage control – diagnosis, treatment and basic genetic research – and is indifferent, if not sometimes hostile, to cancer prevention – getting carcinogens out of the environment.”
“The second factor is conflicts of interests, which are significant when it comes to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), but profound and overwhelming (for) the National Cancer Society (NCS).” In fact, they’re incestuously tied to the “drug industry, the mammography industry, the pesticide industry, and other such industries” that profit from cancer proliferation. It’s big business. The more victims, the greater the bottom line benefits.
Notably, one former NCI director left for a drug industry position. Another went to the American Cancer Society (ACS) before heading up the fiberglas industry, producing a recognized carcinogenic product that should be banned.
Epstein and other public health experts know the war on cancer is winnable by determining avoidable and involuntary carcinogenic exposures, then lobbying Congress to remove them legislatively or by regulations.
He also supports laws that criminalize or hold corporations and their officials accountable for knowingly introducing new carcinogens into the environment.
Instead, of course, they buy politicians like toothpaste, lobby effectively for pro-business legislation and deregulation, and control corporate friendly “watchdog” agencies serving them, not the public interest by revolving door their officials in to run them.
Epstein’s “Politics of Cancer Revisited” updated his 1978 classic with new scientific developments and public policy issues. Again, he accused “the cancer establishment” of bearing “major responsibility for losing the winnable war against cancer.”
In Part I, he explained the limitations and accuracies of cancer research, including case histories and political infighting on issues relating to asbestos, vinyl chloride, bischloromethylether, benzene, tobacco, red dyes #2 and #40, saccharin, acrylonitrile, female sex hormones, pesticides, aldrin/dieldrin, chlordane/heptachlor, and nitrosamines. He also reviewed government and “cancer establishment” policies since 1978.
In Part II, he focused on challenging and debunking current “cancer establishment” policies and its US/UK apologists, aiding and abetting them to persist. He also included articles, reports, and press releases from 1987 – 1998, as well as documentation of the hazards of meat and milk hormones, breast cancer contributory factors, and avoidable cancer risks. In fact, citizen petitions about them to the FDA largely fell on deaf ears because industry officials run it and control Congress.
As a result, the war on cancer is being lost, not won, because profits take precedence over public health, a testimony to corrupted priorities and criminal politicians who enforce them.
Cancer has proliferated because of the dramatic increase in carcinogenic environmental and workplace substances, Epstein saying in the preface to his 1978 book:
“Cancer is caused mainly by exposure to chemical or physical agents in the environment. The more of a carcinogen present in the human environment, hence the greater the exposure to it, the greater the chance of developing cancer from it. There is no known method for measuring or predicting a ‘safe’ level of exposure to any carcinogen below which cancer will result in any individual or population group.”
In 1978, “the cancer establishment” and OCHA estimated 38% of cancer deaths from 1978 – 2008 would be linked to “high exposure” occupational carcinogens from asbestos, arsenic, benzene, chromium, nickel oxides, and petroleum fractions, focusing solely on their harm to workers, as well as omitting many others, including radiation.
Epstein documented occupational, environmental, prescription drug, and consumer product carcinogens. Examples include:
— diethanolamine (DEA) absorbed in the skin, used in cosmetics, soaps and toiletries;
— permanent and semi-perminent dark hair dye, producing 20% of female non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in America;
— food colorings, pesticides, fungicides, nitrites, and hormones in foods;
— most US cattle and sheep receive carcinogenic growth-promoting hormone implants (usually testosterone or estrogens);
— food packaging is also harmful, containing dangerous chemicals able to migrate into food; and
— hazardous prescription drugs “may pose the single most important class of unrecognized and avoidable cancer risks for the US population,” according to Epstein.
Overall, “cancer establishment” figures, regulatory agencies, and compromised academic and other consultants downplay the risks. Moreover, conflicts of interest proliferate. For example, drug, chemical and other business interests buy influence, corrupting those selling it by accepting funding in return for which they support harmful corporate practices or ignore the risk.
In 1992, Epstein and three colleagues – former federal agency directors Eula Bingham, David Rall and Irwin Bross – proposed “war on cancer” reforms. Sixty-four national cancer prevention, public health and preventive medicine experts endorsed them in a statement reading:
“We express further concerns that the generously funded cancer establishment, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and some 20 comprehensive cancer centers, have misled and confused the public and Congress by repeated claims that we are winning the war against cancer. In fact, the cancer establishment has continually minimized the evidence for increasing cancer rates, which it has largely attributed to smoking and dietary fat, while discounting or ignoring the causal role of avoidable exposures to industrial carcinogens in the air, food, water, and the workplace.”
Moreover, ACS also opposed legislation against adding carcinogenic substances to food, and campaigned for dangerous substances like organochlorine pesticides, known to cause breast cancer. As a result, Epstein believes an “economic boycott of ACS (is) well overdue,” besides similar activism against all other corrupted industry related organizations supporting or turning a blind eye to carcinogenic substances that should be banned.
Instead, harmful ones proliferate in our food, air, water, consumer products, prescription drugs, and workplaces. Public awareness, anger, and political action is vital to stop it. “The Politics of Cancer Revisited” includes a list of US and UK organizations that can help.
In addition, everyone can vote with their pocketbook, boycotting harmful products, buying safer ones, and encouraging others to do the same thing. That’s how important battles are won, by ordinary people at the grassroots – getting informed, doing the right thing, telling others, and proving where real power lies when it’s used constructively.
Epstein’s 2005 book titled, “Cancer-Gate: How to Win the Losing Cancer War” includes articles he wrote during the previous 15 years, highlighting the cancer epidemic, the leading cause of (preventable) death in America.
He explained that it’s easier to pollute than protect public health, that regulatory agencies turn a blind eye, that elected officials are corrupted to go along, that big money nearly always gets its way, that organizations like NCI and ACS abound with conflicts of interest, and that many scientific community members willingly compromise their integrity in return for generous research grants and other benefits.
As a result, cancer is a growth industry, environmental harm and human health the price for big industry profits. The power of vested interests keeps them burgeoning. Public awareness can change things, not decades more worthless research in lieu of simple solutions, eliminating harmful substances that kill.
Epstein’s new book titled, “National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society: Criminal Indifference to Cancer Prevention and Conflicts of Interest” denounces both organizations for losing the war on cancer, arguing they waste billions of taxpayer and charitable contributions on treatment instead of prevention.
As a result, nearly one in two men and over one in three women are affected because of reasons explained above, including powerful vested interests profiting on disease and human misery.
Moreover, for decades, “the cancer establishment” spread misleading information and claims, including predicting in 1984 that cancer mortality would be halved by 2000, and in 2003 NCI director, former ACS president-elect and FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach pledging to “eliminate suffering and death from cancer by 2015.” Instead, it proliferates more than ever.
In their 2003 “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975 – 2000,” NCI, ACS, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also claimed “considerable progress (made) in reducing the (number of people with cancer) in the US population” when, in fact, an out-of-control epidemic persists.
According to Epstein’s research, incidence rates increased 18%. Non-smoking related cancers rose sharply. Liver cancer rates swelled 104%, prostate cancer 88%, thyroid and testicular cancer 54%, breast cancer 29%, and brain cancer 14%.
Ironically, the more money spent on cancer, the more it proliferates because little goes for prevention, none lobbying for prohibiting carcinogens from the environment, workplaces, food, air, consumer products, and prescription drugs.
Epstein explained that “damage control,” not prevention, is cancer proliferation’s root cause, saying “cancer establishment” priorities (including NCI’s) are misguided.
Shamelessly, NCI’s opening statement in its 2001 Cancer Facts report says “cancer prevention is a major component and current priority – to reduce suffering and death from cancer.” In fact, it’s a minor effort compared to most funds ill-directed.
In addition, Epstein showed most prevention advocacy only stressed avoiding smoking and bad diets, not the main carcinogenic threats to prohibit and avoid.
Epstein named the three major categories NCI won’t discuss:
— air, water, food, soil, and workplace environmental carcinogens;
— others in consumer products and pesticides; and
— more of them in prescription drugs and high-dose diagnostic radiation, especially pediatric CAT scans.
According to Epstein:
“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 occupation or environmental exposure to carcinogens.”
As a result, industry is encouraged to proliferate dangerous products, especially when Congress and regulatory agencies let them.
Examples of NCI’s coverup and denial include:
— “In 1983, the Department of Health and Human Services directed NCI to investigate the risk of thyroid cancer from I-131 radioactive fallout following atom bomb tests in Nevada in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
— NCI released 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 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.”
— NCI also suppressed other information. At a 1996 San Francisco Town Hall breast cancer meeting, its former director Richard Klausner said that “low level diagnostic radiation does not demonstrate an increased risk.” In fact, long-term studies on spinal curvature (scoliosis) patients showed this type radiation responsible for 70% of excess breast cancer mortality.
— distinguished independent scientists, including Epstein, and public interest groups condemn NCI’s and ACS’ abysmal record on prevention. In fact, a Center for Science in the Public Interest 1994 press release said “(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.”
They urged the organization to focus on prevention in its lobbying and educational campaigns.
Notably, NCI and ACS don’t inform the public of increasing childhood cancers, accelerating at alarming rates. The Cancer Prevention Coalition’s 2003 report said they rose by 32% from 1975 – 2000, calling cancer their leading cause of death after accidents.
Moreover, NCI shockingly claims “causes of childhood cancer are largely unknown,” when, in fact, they’re exposed to proliferating avoidable carcinogens.
In fact, NCI and ACS conflicts of interest are outrageous and deplorable, incestuously tied to corporations profiting from disease. Moreover, half of ACS’ board members are doctors and scientists closely tied to NCI, both organizations stressing treatment, not prevention, including hazardous ones like mammography, toxic chemotherapy, dangerous cancer drugs, and unproved/unorthodox therapies.
In addition, NCI and ACS resist change, Epstein calling their record deplorable, saying:
“The verdict is unassailable. The ACS (and NCI share) responsibility for losing the winnable war against cancer.” In principle, reforming them is “relatively easy and directly achievable.”
Boycott them. Donate to cancer prevention groups without corporate ties. It’s long overdue, says Epstein, and will send “the only message” these organizations understand – hitting them in the pocketbook where it hurts.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.