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Prestigious International Award for U.S. Expert Who Advocates Emphasis on Cancer Prevention Rather Than Just on Damage Control-- Diagnosis and Treatment

Chicago and Stockholm, December 7/PR Newswire

Prof. Samuel Epstein, M.D., the world-renowned authority on the causes and prevention of cancer and critic of the U.S. cancer establishment, the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society, has been named a 1998 winner of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize."

Dr. Epstein will be presented his award in a December, 9 ceremony at the Swedish Parliament, Stockholm, where he will deliver an address "Legislative Proposals for Reversing the Cancer Epidemic". He has been invited subsequently to meet with senior members of the European Parliament and European Commission in Brussels on December 10 and 11 to discuss his proposed legislative initiatives for cancer prevention.

Epstein, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois, Chicago and Chairman of The Cancer Prevention Coalition, will receive the award for his "exemplary life of scholarship, wedded to activism on behalf of humanity". For more than three decades, Epstein has campaigned against environmental pollution from run-away petrochemical and other industrial technologies which he has shown to be major avoidable causes of cancer, the incidence of which has escalated to epidemic proportions over recent decades. He has argued strongly for strategies based on cancer prevention rather than on virtual exclusionary emphasis on damage control --diagnosis and treatment-- particularly as survival rates for most common cancers have not significantly improved for decades. In incriminating environmental pollutants for much avoidable cancer and in campaigning for toxics use reduction, Epstein -- and in recent years the Cancer Prevention Coalition which he founded -- have pressured governments and corporations to take greater responsibility for product safety and environmental protection. Epstein has thereby made an incomparable contribution to the prevention of a disease that is now responsible for over a quarter of all deaths in industrial countries and is increasing worldwide.

Epstein has emerged as the leading international champion for cancer prevention, and for winning the losing war against cancer by preventing or reducing avoidable exposures to industrial carcinogens in air, water, consumer products -- food, cosmetics and toiletries, and household products -- and the work place.

He has conducted extensive basic and applied research on the carcinogenic and other chronic toxic affects of environmental and occupational industrial pollutants. His some 260 scientific publications date back to the early 1960s. His best known book, "The Politics of Cancer" (1978) won the Notable Book and other awards.

Epstein has played an important role as president or founder of professional societies, especially of the more activist kind and a major role in public interest groups including as president of the Rachel Carson Council. He has also acted as consultant, including drafting legislation, to a number of Congressional committees. His extensive media experience include contributing editorials for leading newspapers and numerous appearances on major TV and radio programs.

Epstein’s most recent surge of activity arose from his precedential February 4th initiative, 1992, when 65 eminent public health experts, including past directors of Federal agencies, joined with him at a Washington D.C press conference in releasing a statement on "Losing the War against Cancer: Need for Public Policy Reforms". The statement emphasized that the overall incidence of cancer had increased by 54% since 1950, with increases up to 200% for some cancers, including non-smoking related cancers. The statement blamed this increase on the failure of the "cancer establishment" -- the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) –-for their, not always benign, indifference to cancer prevention and their periodic misleading and exaggerated claims for dramatic improvement in treatment for common cancers which rarely, if ever, have been substantiated. The statement also called for drastic reforms of NCI and ACS policies and priorities. The only response of the cancer establishment was a campaign of personal villification and scientific "McCarthyism".

Out of this initiative was born the Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC), which pursues a comprehensive strategy of outreach, education and advocacy to establish prevention as the nation’s top cancer policy. The long-term objective of CPC is to reverse modern epidemic cancer rates to their pre-1940 levels. Epstein’s book (with Steinman and Levert) "The Breast Cancer Prevention Program", a second edition of which was published by Macmillan in October 1998, details a wide range of scientifically established ways by which women of any age can reduce their risks of breast cancer. This book poses a direct challenge to the NCI and ACS who maintain that there is no way of preventing breast cancer.

In an invited, March 1998 submission to Congress, Epstein presented his critique of the US cancer establishment whose failed policies "in no small measure have been a critical factor in escalating cancer rates over recent decades". Evidence for these and other charges, including conflicts of interest, have been fully documented in Epstein’s November 1998 book "The Politics of Cancer Revisited." As importantly, the book details practical methods for winning the losing war against cancer based on both personal initiatives for reducing avoidable carcinogenic exposures, and also on political initiatives, particularly the "right-to-know" and toxics use reduction. For more information see Web site,



We are losing the winnable war against cancer. Over recent decades, the incidence of cancer in Europe, the U.S. and other industrialized nations has escalated to epidemic proportions, with lifetime cancer risks in some nations reaching 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women. The overall increase of all cancers in the U.S. from 1950-1995 was 55% of which lung cancer, primarily attributed to smoking, accounted for about 12%. Over the same period, non-smoking cancers increased as follows: prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma, 200%; testis cancer, 110%; brain and nervous system cancer, 80%; and childhood cancer, 10%. Meanwhile, our ability to treat and "cure" most cancers, with the notable exception of some relatively rare cancers such as pediatric, has remained virtually unchanged in spite of periodic misleading and exaggerated claims to the contrary.

The modern cancer epidemic cannot be explained away on the basis of increasing longevity as incidence and mortality rates are adjusted in cancer registries to reflect these trends. Nor can the epidemic be largely attributed to faulty personal lifestyle factors. While smoking is clearly the most important single cause of cancer, the incidence of lung cancer in men, but not women, is declining due to reduction in smoking, while the incidence of a wide range of non-smoking cancers is increasing at proportionately greater rates. Nor can the role of high fat diets p~ se be incriminated as a major cause of cancer, in sharp contrast to heart disease. Illustratively, not only are breast cancer rates in Mediterranean countries low despite diets with up to 40% olive oil fat, but also epidemiological studies over the last two decades have consistently failed to establish any causal relationship between breast cancer and the consumption of fat p~ se. Finally, increasing cancer rates cannot be attributed to genetic factors which are directly implicated in relatively few cancers, and as the genetics of human populations cannot possibly have changed within the last few decades.

What then is the predominant cause of the modern cancer epidemic? The answer is based on a strong body of scientific evidence incriminating the role of run-away industrial technologies, particularly the petrochemical, whose exponential growth since the I 940s has, to varying degrees in different nations, outstripped the development of social control infrastructures and mechanisms. Resultingly, our total environment, air, water, consumer products--food, cosmetics and toiletries, and household products including pesticides--and the workplace, has become pervasively contaminated with a wide range of often persistent industrial carcinogens. As a consequence, the public-at-large has been and continues to be unknowingly exposed to avoidable carcinogens from conception to death.

Meanwhile cancer institutions-- governmental, charitable and academic with their national networks of cancer centers-- have failed to provide government, regulatory agencies and the public with available scientific information on a wide range of avoidable carcinogenic exposures, so that appropriate legislative, regulatory, and self-protective personal action has not yet been taken. These policies reflect institutional mindsets fixated on damage control --diagnosis and treatment-- with virtual indifference or minimalistic priorities and budgetary allocations to prevention. These mindsets are frequently compounded by conflicts of interest, particularly with the cancer drug industry.

1. Prohibition of the Authorization of New Carcinogenic Products: The first line of defense against risks from avoidable carcinogenic exposures, would be an absolute prohibition of further increasing the burden of current exposures resulting from authorization of new candidate carcinogenic products and processes. Such a prohibition is based on the precautionary principle that preventing new risks and that zero risk policies are clearly preferable to deliberately accepting new risks and then attempting to "manage" them by reducing exposures to levels alleged to be "acceptable" by industry or regulatory agencies. This precautionary principle mandates the categorical responsibility of industry to unequivocally establish the safety of new candidate products or processes, as opposed to imposing a heavy burden on regulatory agencies and citizens to prove risks in response to inadequately based industry claims of safety.

2.Reduction of Toxics in Use: The second line of defense is the phase-out of carcinogens in use in the wide range of petrochemical and other products and processes already established in commerce. Strategies based on toxics use reduction-phasing out the manufacture, use and disposal of carcinogenic chemicals, coupled with their replacement by safe alternative technologies-are not only practical but cost-effective. The implementation of such strategies, however, requires the establishment of an explicit schedule for the shortest feasible phase-out time, and for monitoring industry compliance. Toxics-use-reduction legislation further exemplifies the precautionary principle of risk prevention rather than risk management."

3. Right-to-Know: The right-to-know is, or should be, an inalienable and fundamental democratic principle with the possible exception of national security concerns. Claims of confidentiality and trade secrecy by industry are often a serious deterrent to the recognition of potential risks from carcinogenic, and otherwise toxic, products. There is thus an urgent need to develop legislation to restrict claims of confidentiality to what is unarguably essential to protect validated proprietary information, exclusive of any health considerations. All information on the identity of carcinogens in products or processes, together with "red flag" warnings of the risks, must be automatically and fully released and made fully available to the public. Right-to-know initiatives should also be directed to cancer institutions with respect to their policies, priorities and budgetary allocations, besides to concerns on potential conflicts of interest.

4. Expert Committees and Regulatory Agencies: Key governmental decisions and policies are generally determined by recommendations of designated expert scientific committees and regulatory bodies. Legislation is required to ensure their independence, integrity and expertise, and transparency of their proceedings, which should be open to the public. Full membership rights should be given to concerned NGO's. Such legislation should also extend to all executive, advisory and scientific committees of governmental and non-governmental cancer institutions.

5. White Collar Crime: There is an overwhelming disparity between the full force of criminal law and punishment directed at perpetrators of theft, property damage, or personal violence and the lenient civil proceedings against managers and executives of industries and their consultants who knowingly manipulate, distort or suppress information on the environmental, occupational and consumer hazards of their products and processes; there is extensive and well documented evidence on the commonplace nature of such misconduct among petrochemical and other industries manufacturing a wide range of carcinogenic products. White collar crime legislation is needed to correct this imbalance

6. Independent Citizen Safety Agency: There are long overdue needs for the establishment of an Independent Citizen Safety Agency. This Agency should be empowered to police the effectiveness of health and safety regulations, and to act as an intermediary between consumers, workers and their NGO's, and regulatory authorities and industry. The Agency should be established on the models of anti-trust and cartel agencies with wide powers of investigation, decision making and fining of violators. As such, the Agency should be a public watchdog, an Ombudsman with teeth, directly accountable only to Parliament.

* A summary of "The Right Livelihood Award Presentation to the Swedish Parliament", December 9, 1998.