2. "Cancer, Inc."
When Richard Nixon began an "all out war" on cancer with
the National Cancer Act in 1971, a concerned public expected great strides
to be made. Members of the American Cancer Society (ACS) were the major
political force behind the Act which has resulted in a National Cancer
Institute's (NCI) budget of over $800 million a year, compared to $190
million in 1971.
Now over six years and $4 billion later, the U. S. still has the highest
record for cancer occurrence -- being 50 percent above the world average,
while the chance for an American to survive cancer has not increased
more than 1 percent since the late 1940's. Forty percent of the research
funds go to contract research which is barely reviewed and invites abuse
and poor quality work. The Special Virus Cancer Program, which cost
half a billion dollars and determined viruses have nothing to do with
cancer, is representative of this self-perpetuating bureaucracy.
A very ambitious and widely publicized program was the Breast Cancer
Detection Demonstration which screened 270,000 women between the ages
of 35 and 70, but because radiation precautions were not taken, there
is a high risk that more women under 50, who made up 85 percent of the
program, will die from cancer than be saved by the project. At least
70 known women underwent unnecessary breast surgery as a result of the
Probably the most important drawback to cancer research in this country
has been the lack of attention given to banning carcinogenic chemicals.
Despite government estimates that 50-90 percent of cancer is caused
by environmental factors, the ACS has refused to support such bills
as the Toxic Substance Control Act and has never pushed a ban on any
carcinogenic product. ACS-backed industry groups actually fought to
keep saccharin on the market. The NCI has also recently cut from 150
to 37 the number of suspected carcinogens it tests each year. The ACS
gives a low priority to environmental research because it seems to be
basically a doctor service agency, with a board of doctors, scientists,
and business executives who are more comfortable with research, treatment,
and early diagnosis, than challenges to corporate polluters and calls
for increased government regulation.
"Diagnosis and treatment, although necessary," explains Dr.
Sidney Wolfe, Director of Nader's Health Research Group, "do create
new industries or expand existing ones; more x-ray equipment, drugs,
operations, buildings. Prevention cuts into the profit margins of existing
industries which have thus far been able to escape the costs of the
cancer they cause." The ineffective expenditure of billions of
dollars and the continuing high incidence of cancer in this country
qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best censored
stories of 1977."
"Cancer, Inc.," by Ruth Rosenbaum, New Times, November 25,
1977, p. 28-43.
"Cancer Society Seeks Cure, Neglects Causes," by Jim Rosapepe,
Politiks, December 6, 1977, p. 25.