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The Politics of Lung Cancer

CPC CHICAGO, IL, October 28, 2010 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- On April 22, 2010, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Sam Brownback urged the U.S. Senate to pass the 2009 Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act. The Cancer Prevention Coalition and CPC Chairman Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. point to the statement in this Act that "lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, accounting for 28 percent of all cancer deaths."

The Act also warned that "two-thirds of nonsmokers diagnosed with lung cancer are women."

In support of the Act, the National Lung Cancer Partnership, warned of significant evidence that "women may be more sensitive than men to the cancer-causing effects of chemicals in cigarettes."

Of further and still unrecognized major concern, says Dr. Epstein, the death rate for lung cancer in women has increased by 127% since 1975, while that for men has decreased by 15%.

The Partnership also warned that women are more likely to get a different type of lung cancer than men, technically known as bronchioloalveolar whose incidence is rising worldwide.

Of further and related concern, Dr. Epstein says, is the failure of the Lung Cancer Partnership to recognize that exposures in the home and workplace are also significant causes of lung cancer.

"This is surprising in view of the fact that the prestigious President's Cancer Panel's April 2010 report detailed concerns on the 'strong evidence' of domestic exposures to avoidable causes of lung cancer," Dr. Epstein warns. "These include: pollutants from combustion of coal and fuel oil; the use of carcinogenic pesticides in the home and/or garden; burning household waste; the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers; and emissions from the transportation sector."

Dr. Epstein further emphasizes that the term "strong evidence" of a causal link is based on a designation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

As disturbing, he warns, is the longstanding abdication of responsibility by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the primary federal institute explicitly charged by President Nixon in 1971, to fight the war against cancer. This charge clearly prioritizes the allocation of adequate resources to investigate and eliminate avoidable causes of cancer, which clearly include non-smoking causes of lung cancer in women.

"This failure does not reflect lack of resources," explains Dr. Epstein. "The budget of the NCI has escalated from $200,000 in 1971, to over $5 billion currently."

"However, while Dr. Harold Varmus, the current director of the NCI, has a distinguished track record in basic research on cancer treatment, this is paralleled by his frank indifference to and ignorance of well-documented scientific evidence on cancer prevention," Dr. Epstein says.

"Over two decades ago, he revealingly claimed, 'You can't do experiments to see what causes cancer - it's not an accessible problem, and not the sort of thing scientists can afford to do - everything you do can't be risky,'" Dr. Epstein points out.

"So much for the past and present track record of cancer prevention in the NCI!" Dr. Epstein exclaims.

"The frank indifference of Varmus to cancer prevention is further reinforced by unrecognized personal conflicts of interest," says Dr. Epstein. "In 1995, Varmus, then director of the National Institutes of Health, struck the "reasonable pricing clause," protecting against exorbitant industry profiteering from the sale of drugs developed with taxpayer money."

Varmus also gave senior NCI staff free license to consult with the cancer drug industry, which Dr. Epstein believes to be "an unacceptable conflict of interest."

The 2008 edition of Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report listed Varmus with a compensation package of about $2.7 million, says Dr. Epstein, adding, "This is the highest compensation of directors in over 500 major non-profit organizations ever monitored."

"No wonder the NCI is indifferent to, or unaware, of avoidable non-smoking causes of lung cancer."

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; Recipient of the 1998 Right Livelihood Award ("Alternative Nobel Prize") and the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; Author of over 270 scientific articles and 20 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including the award-winning The Politics of Cancer (Sierra Club Books, 1978) and Cancer-Gate: How To Win The Losing Cancer War (Baywood Publishing, 2005).

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
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