Latest News Services circuits Archive Subscribe Contact



Cancer Prevention Coalition Urges Support of the Safe Chemicals Act

CPC CHICAGO, IL, May 4, 2010 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- The Cancer Prevention Coalition is encouraging people to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on April 15 this year. The bill amends the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act by requiring manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals before they are marketed.

"Of particular concern are carcinogens, to which the public remains dangerously exposed and uninformed," says Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the national "war against cancer," and the National Cancer Act was passed. This charged the National Cancer Institute (NCI) "to disseminate cancer information to the public."

The 1971 Act also authorized the President to appoint the director of NCI and control its budget, thus bypassing the scientific and budgetary authority of the director of 26 other National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"As a result of this anomaly, NCI's current $5.3 billion budget, 17% that of the entire NIH, remains beyond control of NIH's director," Dr. Epstein points out.

This special status of the NCI was challenged in 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences, at hearings of the House Energy and Commerce, and also by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees.

Furthermore, contrary to the specific requirements of the 1971 Act, the NCI has still failed to "disseminate cancer information to the public," and to warn the public of a wide range of avoidable causes of cancer.

The 1988 amendments to the National Cancer Program called for "an expanded and identified research program for the prevention of cancer caused by occupational or environmental exposure to carcinogens." However, these amendments have been and still remain ignored by the NCI.

"For over four decades, NCI policies have been and remain fixated on damage control - screening, diagnosis, treatment and related research," says Dr. Epstein, who warns that, "Meanwhile priorities for prevention, from avoidable exposures to carcinogens in air, water, consumer products, and the workplace have remained minimal."

To be sure, smoking remains the best-known and single largest cause of cancer, particularly lung cancer. Dr. Epstein emphasizes that, "While lung cancer incidence rates in men have declined by 20% over the past three decades, those in women have increased by 111%. But more importantly, non-smoking cancers - due to known chemical and physical carcinogens - have increased substantially since 1975."

Some of the more startling realities in the failure to prevent cancer are illustrated by their soaring increases. Examples include:
  • Malignant melanoma of the skin in adults is increasing by 168% due to the use of sunscreens in childhood that fail to block long wave ultraviolet light;

  • Thyroid cancer is increasing by 124% due in large part to ionizing radiation;

  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is increasing 76% due mostly to phenoxy herbicides; and phenylenediamine hair dyes;

  • Testicular cancer is increasing by 49% due to pesticides; hormonal ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products; and estrogen residues in meat;

  • Childhood leukemia is increasing by 55% 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% in African American women and 13% in Caucasian women due to genital use of talc powder;

  • Breast cancer is increasing 17% 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 ten years. Reflecting these concerns, Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Henry Waxman have introduced bills promoting educational campaigns, including teaching regular breast self examination to high school students.
"Paradoxically," says Dr. Epstein, "the escalating incidence of cancer over the last thirty years parallels its sharply escalating annual budget, from $690 million in 1975 to $6 billion this year. Of this, a mere $131 million is now allocated to NCI's mission on "Prevention and Early Detection." Furthermore, President Obama has proposed a 5% increase in funding the NCI for unspecified cancer research, with a doubling to $11.5 billion over the next eight years."

However, he says, "in spite of well-documented evidence relating the escalating incidence of cancer to a wide range of avoidable carcinogenic exposures, the NCI remains "asleep at the wheel," and has stubbornly refused to devote significant resources to prevention.

The NCI has also ignored proddings from Congress and independent scientific experts to develop a comprehensive registry of carcinogens, Dr. Epstein points out. "Worse still," he warns, "the NCI has misled the public by claiming that most cancers are due to 'unhealthy behavior,' blaming the victim, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

For instance, the NCI still claims that 94% of all cancers are due to "unhealthy behavior," such as smoking, poor nutrition, inactivity, obesity and over exposure to sunlight, while a mere 6% are attributable to environmental and occupational exposures.

"These estimates are based on those published in 1981 by the late U.K. epidemiologist Richard Doll. However, from 1976 to 1999, Doll had been a closet consultant to U.K. and U.S. industries, including General Motors, Monsanto and the asbestos industry," Dr. Epstein recalls. "Following revelation of these conflicts of interest, just prior to his death in 2002, Doll admitted that most cancers, other than those related to smoking and hormones, 'are induced by exposure to chemicals often environmental.'"

Dr. Epstein notes that the NCI has touted the imminent success of new cancer treatments, but says these promises have seldom borne out, and have been widely questioned by the independent scientific community.

For instance, Nobel Laureate Leland Hartwell, President of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Control Center, warned in 2004 that Congress and the public are paying NCI $4.7 billion a year, most of which is spent on "promoting ineffective drugs" for terminal disease.

Based on recent estimates by the National Institutes of Health, the total costs of cancer now reach $228 billion a year. The annual costs to taxpayers of diagnosis and treatment amount to $93 billion; the annual costs of premature death are conservatively estimated at $116 billion; and the annual costs due to lost productivity are conservatively estimated at $19 billion. These are quantifiable and inflationary economic costs. The human costs surely are of far greater magnitude.

The Cancer Prevention Coalition urges that people support Senator Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act by contacting their elected members of Congress here.

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 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; and author of over 200 scientific articles and 15 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including the groundbreaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), and Toxic Beauty (2009 Benbella Press).

To read Dr. Epstein's columns in the Huffington Post, go to:

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Chicago, Illinois
Tel: 312-996-2297