Cancer Conspiracy

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Most of us would agree that it's cruel for hucksters to claim they have treatments for cancer if they do not. We ought to be just as wary of organizations claiming to have unconventional knowledge about preventing cancer by avoidance of various environmental threats. That's the central pitch of the Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC).

Judging by CPC's website, the coalition consists mainly of Dr. Samuel S. Epstein of the University of Illinois School of Public Health, who has argued for over three decades now that chemicals in the environment are a significant cause of cancer and furthermore that the "cancer establishment" including the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society are covering up the truth. He even makes time in his curriculum vitae for a tangential attack on the ACS, accusing them of "indifference [to] cancer prevention, which for the ACS extends to hostility. This mindset is compounded by conflicts of interest with the cancer drug industry, and also with the petrochemical and other industries in the case of the ACS."

As another page of the CPC website puts it, "An overemphasis on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and relative neglect of its prevention, coupled with ineffective regulation of carcinogens in air, water, food, consumer products, and the workplace, have contributed to escalating cancer rates and an annual death toll of over 500,000. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and American Cancer Society (ACS) which should be the chief advocates of cancer prevention instead mislead the public and policy makers into believing that we are winning the war against cancer, and trivialize the role of avoidable exposures to industrial carcinogens."

To combat this conspiracy, the CPC is "informing consumers of their avoidable risks from undisclosed carcinogenic ingredients and contaminants in a wide range of foods and consumer products, such as cosmetics and home and garden pesticides." In addition, "CPC advocates phasing out the manufacture, use, and disposal of industrial carcinogens and their replacement with non-carcinogenic alternatives." Epstein blames man-made chemicals for increased cancer rates in recent decades, dismissing as a cover-up claims by the ACS that the increase is largely a product of the aging of the population, since cancer is disproportionately a disease of old age and becomes a more prevalent cause of death as other diseases are defeated.

If Dr. Epstein believed in only one dubious cancer-causation theory, one might be inclined to take him seriously and investigate his claims further, but he seems to believe in them all and not just industrial chemicals, either (that we would expect from the president of the Rachel Carson Council): he is also opposed to genetically-modified foods and even the irradiation of foods to eliminate dangerous microorganisms. There is no evidence irradiated food (which, crucially, is not synonymous with radioactive food) is harmful, but a less than cautious CPC press release urges America to find some equally thorough means of making food safe, without resort to "ultrahazardous irradiation technologies" (not "hypothetically" or even "potentially" hazardous, mind you, which would be outrageous enough, but "ultrahazardous"). For a more balanced look at the implausible risk claims and substantial real benefits, see ACSH's booklet on Irradiated Foods.

The real danger, as is usually the case with alternative and anti-mainstream medicine, is not so much that Epstein will destroy his targets NCI, ACS, industry but that he will distract scientists, public resources, and citizens from proven cancer threats, such as smoking, diets devoid of fruits and vegetables, chronic infections, and overexposure to the sun, and that his disparaging comments about "diagnosis and treatment" may impede the search for real solutions piecemeal but improving to the problem of cancer.


July 31, 2003

Dear ACSH:

I think that we should investigate and proliferate knowledge on all types of health hazards and carcinogens. The problem now is that an entire industry is building up around cancer.

This was ably described in an article by Mary Starrett entitled "Pink Ribbons and Poison." It appeared in a recent edition of News with Views.

Ms. Starrett paints a ghastly picture of all the self-promoting "cancer walks," which really just helped to perpetuate disease and mistreatment. Pharmaceuticals and chemotherapy that make patients sicker (or dead) have astronomical prices for the surviving families as well. And it is amazing that we have fundraisers to feed this sickening cycle.

Meanwhile, alternative and nutritional therapies are routinely maligned in the press even though they have helped millions escape disease.

Consider how insane this cycle is. First, people eat hyper-processed, chemical-laden foods. Second, they get sick. Third, they get bombarded with still more chemicals as if that is supposed to make them better?!

Let's stop the cancer scam and return America to natural, organic health.