by Neev M. Arnell
A new book by leading cancer expert, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, skewers
National Cancer Institute and
American Cancer Society and blames
the organizations for America losing the war against cancer.
In the book, "National 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.
Epstein, who 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
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,
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
skyrockets along with cancer rates
...followed by exaggerated claims
The cancer industry has made a series of misleading claims about the
'advances' in the war against cancer over the past three decades,
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
"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
increase by 6 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 tax payers and charity.
NCI budget has increased 25-fold, from $220 million to $4.6 billion,
between 1971 and 2000.
The fixation 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 to
Epstein shows 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
Epstein further 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
NCI & 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,
According to Epstein, there are three major categories of avoidable
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
Epstein blamed 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.
NCI's aversion to publicizing avoidable carcinogens has even gone as
far as suppression and denial, Epstein said, quoting the following
"In 1983, 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."
"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 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,
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 campaigns."
The scientists criticized ACS for requiring human evidence of
carcinogenic effects before implementing regulation, saying that
they had an unrealistically high action threshold.
Harvard University Nobel Laureates Matthew Meselson and
former Occupational Safety and Health Director Eula
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
Possibly most 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
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 sites.
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 behavior.
"It has 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.]"
Conflicts of Interest
But emphasis on treatment looks likely to remain if, as Epstein
shows, the ACS and NCI are in bed with those who profit from a
Approximately 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.
"The ACS has close
connections to the mammography industry," Epstein writes.
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
ACS promotion 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 time."
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
"The ACS exposes premenopausal women to radiation hazards from
mammography with little or no evidence of benefits," Epstein
"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
The intimate association between ACS and the pharmaceutical
industry is illustrated, Epstein said, by the unbridled aggression
which ACS directs at its critics.
"ACS maintains a
Committee on Unproven Methods of Cancer Management, which
periodically reviews unorthodox or alternative therapies,"
"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 minimally
committee updates its statements on unproven methods, which are then
widely disseminated to clinicians, cheerleader science writers, and
Once a clinician or oncologist becomes associated with
unproven methods, he or she is blackmailed by the cancer
Funding for the accused quack becomes inaccessible,
followed by systematic harassment.
"The highly 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
The cancer industry's
favor of pharmaceutical products is evidenced, Epstein said,
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 non-patented alternative drug."
According to 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 prices."
Epstein calls for
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.
Numerous NCI 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
"There is no likelihood that such reforms will be
implemented without legislative action."
And the ACS has done no better, according to Epstein.
"The verdict 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