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Losing the Cancer War

Fighting for a safer environment at home, in the community, and at work

U. S. National Cancer Institute

Examples of the cancer establishment's reckless failure to warn the public, the media, Congress and regulatory agencies, particularly the FDA, OSHA and EPA, of epidemiological evidence on a wide range of avoidable and involuntary risk factors or causes of cancer (12). These include:


  • The entire U.S. population, to varying degrees, is exposed to a wide range of industrial carcinogens identified epidemiologically and/or experimentally. Of particular importance is a group of 12 chlorinated Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), furans, dioxins, PCBs and pesticides, which have polluted the totality of the environment—air, water, hazardous waste sites, soil, food and the workplace.

  • A wide range of POP's have been identified by the EPA (p. 17), since 1970, in extensive body burden studies on human fat, and to a lesser extent in blood and urine; more recent studies in the U.S. and other nations have confirmed and extended these studies. On January 31, 2003, the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the findings of their Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals on 116 carcinogenic, and toxic pesticides and other, environmental contaminants in the blood of over two thousand volunteers chosen as a representative slice of the U.S. population; Environmental Working Group and Commonweal also reported on 210 environmental and consumer product contaminants in the blood and urine of nine Americans.

  • The strong relationship between chlorination of drinking water contaminated with organic chemicals, such as decayed leaves in reservoirs, and bladder and rectal cancers; this is due to the formation of potent carcinogens, known as trihalomethanes (THMs), including chloroform and carbon tetrachloride.

  • The herbicide atrazine, extensively used in the U.S. on cornfields and lawns, while banned in most European nations, is the most common pollutant in rainwater, snow runoff, ground water and drinking water. A series of epidemiological studies over the last decade have incriminated atrazine as a cause of non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate and ovarian cancer, while atrazine has also been shown to induce breast cancer in rodents, and endocrine disruptive effects (27). Against this background of NCI's silence is the April, 2002 headline news following publication of evidence that atrazine induces multiple sex organ abnormalities in frogs at levels in water as low as 0.1 parts per billion (28).

  • The relationship between fluoridation of drinking water, with industrial fluorosilicate wastes (contaminated with carcinogenic heavy metals), and bone cancer in young men; fluoride is added to the water supply of about 60% of the U.S. population, in contrast to only 2% of the European population, which has much lower rates of dental caries.

  • The strong relation between lung cancer and its non-smoking attributable causes, including air pollution with diesel exhaust, and a wide range of carcinogenic occupational exposures.

  • The commonplace recycling of toxic wastes, containing heavy metals, dioxins, and radionuclides, into common plant food and farm fertilizers. These wastes bioaccumulate in soil, and contaminate food, water, and air (29). Of major concern is the increasing and systematic recycling of radioactive wastes from nuclear reactors and weapons facilities into building materials and consumer products, such as cutlery, frying pans, bicycles and baby strollers; this recycling has been authorized by the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, under heavy pressure from the nuclear industry.

  • The strong relationships between exposures to global atmospheric weapons fallout from 1959-1963, and to more recent environmental releases of novel radioisotopes from nuclear power stations and the escalating incidence of breast, thyroid, prostate cancers, and childhood leukemia, and brain cancer (30).

  • The relationship between childhood cancer and radioactive emissions from 103 aging nuclear power plants; notorious among these is the Indian Point complex, with its worst safety rating, located in a densely populated region within a 50 mile radius encompassing 7% of the U.S. population. High and increasing levels of radioactive Strontium-90 in baby teeth of this population, the “Tooth Fairy Study” (31), support this evidence.

  • The relationship between electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation from domestic appliances, cell phones, proximity of residence to power lines, and electrical and other occupations to a wide range of cancers. These include male and female breast cancers, brain cancer, and adult and childhood leukemia (32).


  • Some 11 million men and 4 million women are exposed occupationally to industrial chemicals, and ionizing and EMF radiation; these are well recognized as causes of a wide range of cancers, including lung.

  • The strong relationship between non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin's lymphoma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia and exposure to herbicides, particularly 2,4-D, in agricultural workers, and Agent Orange in U.S. military personnel.

  • Suggestive evidence of major excesses of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, brain, colorectal and prostate cancers in golf course maintenance workers and superintendents exposed to high concentrations of carcinogenic herbicides and fungicides; runoff from golf courses can result in heavy contamination watersheds.

  • The relationship between occupational exposure to atrazine and ovarian cancer in women, and prostate cancer in men.

  • The relationship between paternal or maternal exposures to occupational carcinogens and childhood cancers, besides delayed cancers in adult life.

Consumer Products

  • Excess blood levels of the natural Insulin-like Growth Factor One (IGF-1) are strongly related to major excesses of breast, colon and prostate cancers (12, 33). Unlabelled milk, and other dairy products, from cows injected with Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH/BST) are contaminated with high levels of IGF-1, and their consumption thus poses increased risks of these cancers. Similar concerns are increasingly posed by the reckless, and highly profitable, use by poorly qualified physicians of genetically engineered human growth hormone (rHGH) for unfounded benefits of anti-aging treatment.

  • The high residues of estradiol, and other natural and synthetic sex hormones in U.S. meat, from cattle implanted with sex hormones in feedlots prior to slaughter, to increase carcass weight, pose risks of breast and other hormonal cancers (12); such use of all hormones as growth promoters was banned in Europe in December 2002. Other risks include hormonal contamination of water by run-off from feedlots, and endocrine disruptive effects, approximately 10,000 times more potent than pesticides such as DDT.

  • The relationship between frequent consumption of nitrite-dyed hot dogs and childhood leukemia and brain cancer.

  • The relationship between perineal dusting with talcum powder by premenopausal women and ovarian cancer.

  • The relationship between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, bladder and breast cancers, and prolonged use by some 20 million U.S. women of permanent and semi-permanent black or dark brown hair dyes.

  • The relationship between malignant melanoma and the use of sunscreens, particularly in children, which encourage prolonged sun exposure while failing to block UVB radiation.

  • The relationship between childhood cancers, particularly brain cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia, and domestic exposure to pesticides from uses in the home, including pet flea collars, lawn and garden; another major exposure is from commonplace use in schools.


  • The relationships, with varying degrees of strength, between breast cancer and avoidable carcinogenic exposures such as: prolonged use of estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy (ERT), as belatedly and qualifiedly admitted by NCI and ACS, in spite of strong long-standing evidence; cumulative ionizing radiation risks of pre-menopausal mammography; occupational exposure of some one million women to carcinogens, particularly methylene chloride, benzene, ethylene oxide and phenylenediamine dyes; and proximity of residence to Superfund hazardous waste sites and nuclear reactors. The latter is of particular concern since millions of U.S. citizens live within a few miles of these sites, and also since President Bush phased out funding for the cleanup of 33 sites in 18 states in June 2002.

  • The decades old evidence of the relationship between ERT and ovarian cancer; for women using estrogen-only replacement therapy for over 20 years, the increased risk is over 3-fold. It should further be noted that the incidence of ovarian cancer, from 1973 to 1999, in white females over 65 has increased by 21%, in sharp contrast to a decrease of 19% in black females, among whom use of ERT appears less common.

  • The very high risks of unopposed estrogen replacement therapy, inducing uterine cancer in one in 100 women annually after 10 years use; this is much greater than the one in 250 annual incidence of lung cancer in heavy smokers (12).

  • The relationship between the widely prescribed use of Lindane for treatment of lice and scabies and childhood brain cancer.

  • The strong relationship between “low dose” diagnostic ionizing radiation, particularly CT scans and fluoroscopy, and breast, childhood and other cancers.

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


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University of Illinois at Chicago
School of Public Health
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Chicago, IL 60612

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