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Losing the Cancer War

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U. S. National Cancer Institute

  • Withholding Information on Causes of Cancer
  • EXPERIMENTAL Data is withheld
  • Denying the “Right to Know”

The cancer establishment has failed to warn the public, the media, Congress, and regulatory agencies of well-documented experimental evidence, based on carcinogenicity testing in mice and rats, on a wide range of avoidable risk factors or causes of cancer (12). It should further be stressed that only about 2,000 (2.6%) of the 75,000 industrial chemicals in use (listed in the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Substances Control Act inventory) have as yet been tested for carcinogenicity. Since 1970, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has evaluated about 900 of these tests, more than half of which did not meet basic scientific requirements. Clearly, industry should be held responsible for the full costs of testing the overwhelming balance of untested or poorly tested chemicals. This testing should be undertaken on a crash basis by the National Toxicology Program; surprisingly, this still has only limited testing capacity.

The validity of extrapolating experimental evidence of carcinogenicity to human risk has been fully supported for decades by independent scientists, blue ribbon expert federal and other expert committees, and by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Additionally, such evidence has been confirmed, generally decades later, for approximately half of the epidemiologically confirmed carcinogens (12). Of striking relevance is the December 2002 report of the International Consortium’s Mouse Genome Project which reported that roughly 99% of mouse genes have a functional equivalent in the human genome, that their biological programming is amazingly similar, and that the mouse is thus an ideal laboratory animal for investigating the molecular basis of human disease.

Examples of carcinogens identified by experimental evidence include:

Environmental and Occupational

  • Based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) statewide Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) law, 6.5 billion pounds of toxic chemicals, including nearly 100 million pounds of carcinogens (identified experimentally and/or epidemiologically), are discharged by industry into the environment annually; however, the TRI is restricted to 20,000 industrial facilities and only 650 chemical pollutants. This information is readily accessible, at the community and zip code levels, in the Environmental Defense’s Scorecard (; this also details the health risks of high priority pollutants, particularly carcinogenic.

  • The fluoridation of drinking water, with industrial grade fluorosilicate wastes, in spite of evidence that fluoride induces a dose-related incidence of bone cancer in rats.

  • Some one million U.S. women work in industries that expose them to over 50 carcinogens incriminated as causing breast cancer in rodent and, to a lesser extent, epidemiological studies.

Consumer Products

  • High concentrations of multiple residues of carcinogenic pesticides in non-organic fruits and vegetables (23), that are of particular significance in the diets of infants and young children.

  • Irradiation of meat and poultry, with 300,000 times or greater exposure to ionizing radiation than a chest X-ray, induces the formation of unique, volatile and stable, radiolytic products and increased benzene levels, posing carcinogenic and genotoxic risks, besides major vitamin depletion (24). While FDA requires a small radura label on irradiated food sold at retail, there are no such requirements for food served at school lunches and hospitals or in restaurants. More disturbingly, as noted in the November/December 2002 Food Quality Magazine, FDA is considering changing the radura label to a misleadingly euphemistic "cold pasteurization" label.

  • Mainstream industry cosmetics and toiletries contain a wide range of carcinogenic ingredients, such as phenyl-p-phenylenediamine, and diethanolamine. They also contain "hidden" carcinogens from precursors such as: diethanolamine, which apart from its own carcinogenicity following skin application to mice, interacts with nitrites to form the potent carcinogen nitrosodiethanolamine; diazolidinyl urea and quaternium 15, which break down to release formaldehyde; and polyethylene glycol, which is contaminated with two carcinogens, ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Such exposures are of particular concern in view of: the virtual lifelong use of multiple carcinogenic ingredients in common cosmetics and personal care products; their application to large areas of skin, and the concomitant presence of strong detergents in these products, notably sodium lauryl sulfate, which facilitate their skin absorption.

  • The use of the highly potent and volatile 1,4-dichlorobenzene as a room and toilet deodorizer.


  • The extensive marketing of Raloxifene (Evista) since 1997 by women for the prevention of osteoporosis, and alleged prevention of breast cancer, in spite of Eli Lilly's own unpublicized experimental evidence that the drug induces ovarian cancer in mice and rats at about one third of the recommended therapeutic dose. This is compounded by Lilly's admission, unpublicized in full-page newspaper advertisements, that the "clinical relevance of these tumor findings is unknown," and by the 8% increase in the incidence of ovarian cancer from 1997 to 1999, the date of the latest available surveillance data. These concerns are supported by recent evidence that Evista stimulates cell growth in estrogen receptor positive ovarian cancer cells (25).

  • The strongly promoted use of Tamoxifen by NCI and ACS in chemoprevention trials on breast cancer prevention in healthy women, despite evidence that its effectiveness is highly questionable, and that the drug is a potent liver carcinogen in rats (17), apart from the absence of informed consent regarding this grave danger. In July 2002, the FDA strengthened the Warnings section of the drug's label to inform physicians about the increased risk of uterine sarcoma, but without making any reference to risks of liver cancer.

  • The over-prescribed use of Ritalin for "attention deficit disorders" in children (and athletes), in spite of the evidence that it induces liver cancer and rare aggressive hepatoblastomas in mice at doses similar to the "therapeutic" (26), and in the absence of informed parental consent.

Excerpted from Stop Cancer Before It Starts: How to Win the War on Cancer, 2003 by Samuel S. Epstein, M. D.


Cancer Prevention Coalition
University of Illinois at Chicago
School of Public Health
2121 W. Taylor St., MC 922
Chicago, IL 60612

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