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American Cancer Society Indicted by the Cancer Prevention Coalition for Losing The Winnable War Against Cancer

CHICAGO, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ — The following was released today by the Cancer Prevention Coalition:

An article, "American Cancer Society: The World's Wealthiest 'Non-Profit' Institution," by Dr. Samuel Epstein, just published in the International Journal of Health Services, the leading international public health and policy journal, charges that the American Cancer Society (ACS) "is fixated on damage control ... diagnosis and treatment ... and basic molecular biology, with indifference or even hostility to cancer prevention." ACS also trivializes the escalating incidence of cancer which has reached epidemic proportions and makes grossly misleading claims on dramatic progress in the treatment and cure of cancer. This myopic mindset and derelict policy is compounded by interlocking conflicts of interests with the cancer drug, agrichemical, and other industries. The following is illustrative: -- Since 1982, the ACS has adopted a highly restrictive policy insisting on unequivocal human evidence on carcinogenicity before taking any position on cancer risks. Accordingly, the ACS has actively campaigned against the 1958 Delaney law banning the deliberate addition to food of any amount of chemical additive shown to induce cancer, even in well-validated federal animal tests. -- In a joint 1992 statement with the Chlorine Institute, the ACS supported the continued use of organochlorine pesticides in spite of their recognized environmental persistence and carcinogenicity. -- In 1993, just before PBS Frontline aired the special entitled "In Our Children's Food," the ACS sent a memorandum in support of the pesticide industry to some 48 regional divisions which preemptively trivialized pesticides as a cause of childhood cancer and reassured the public that residues of carcinogenic pesticide in food are safe, even for babies. -- In Cancer Facts & Figures, the ACS annual publication designed to provide the public with "basic facts" on cancer, there is little or no mention of prevention. Examples include no mention of: dusting the genital area with talc as a known cause of ovarian cancer; parental exposure to occupational carcinogens, domestic use of pesticides, or frequent consumption of nitrite colored hot dogs (resultingly contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines) as major causes of childhood cancer; and prolonged use of oral contraceptives or hormonal replacement therapy as major causes of breast cancer. Facts & Figures, 1997, also misrepresented that "since women may not be able to alter their personal risk factors, the best opportunity for reducing mortality is early detection." This statement ignores overwhelming evidence on a wide range of ways by which women of all ages can reduce their risks of breast cancer, including regular use of the cheap non-prescription and safe drug aspirin. -- The ACS, together with the National Cancer Institute, has strongly promoted the use of Tamoxifen, the world's top-selling cancer drug, ($400 million annually) manufactured by Zeneca, for allegedly preventing breast cancer in healthy women, evidence for which is highly arguable at best. More seriously, ACS has trivialized the dangerous and sometimes lethal complications of Tamoxifen including blood clots, lung embolism, and aggressive uterine cancer, and fails to warn that the drug is a highly potent liver carcinogen.

Conflicts of interest are further reflected in the ACS Foundation Board of Trustees which includes corporate executives from the pharmaceutical, cancer drug, investment, and media industries. They include David R. Bethume, president of Lederle Laboratories, Gordon Binder, CEO of Amgen (a leading biotech cancer drug company), and Sumner M. Redstone, chairman of the Board of Viacom, Inc.

Other concerns relate to the "non-profit status" of the ACS whose annual budget is some $500 million. Most funds raised go to pay high overhead, salaries, fringe benefits, and travel expenses of national executives in Atlanta, CEO's who earn six-figure salaries in several states, and hundreds of other employees working in some 3,000 regional offices. Less than 16% of all monies raised are spent on direct patient services; salaries and overhead for most ACS affiliates exceed 50%, although most direct community services are handled by unpaid volunteers. While ACS cash assets and reserves approach $1 billion, it continues to plead poverty and lament the lack of funds for cancer research. Not surprisingly, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the leading U.S. charity watchdog, has concluded that the ACS is "more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives." It should further be noted that the ACS uses 10 employees and spends $1 million a year on direct lobbying, and is the only known charity that makes contributions to political parties.

Based on these considerations the International Journal of Heath Services article urged that, in the absence of drastic reforms, contributions to the ACS should be diverted to public interest and environmental group directly involved in cancer prevention. This is the only message that this "charity" can no longer ignore.

Source: Cancer Prevention Coalition

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