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2000-05-18

The Politics of Cancer

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The US government is poised to declare firmly that dioxin, a toxin found throughout the food supply and in the bodies of most people in the world, causes cancer in people. [includes rush transcript]

Made notorious when it was fingered as the toxic component in Agent Orange, used widely during the Vietnam War, dioxin caused the evacuation of the town of Times Beach, Missouri in 1983 and of the Love Canal site in Niagara Falls, New York in 1978.

A draft report leaked to the Washington Post upgrades dioxin to the status of a "human carcinogen," but also concludes that health and environmental officials have done as good a job as possible to control it.

Well, today on Democracy Now, we are going to take a look at the politics of cancer — from the pharmaceutical companies to the organizations that claim to be fighting the disease. We turn now to Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of environmental and occupational medicine and chair of the Cancer Prevention Coalition.

Dr. Epstein has exposed the American Cancer Society, one of the wealthiest non-profits, which gets much of its money from surgeons, top drug companies and corporations that he says profit from the cancer industry and have little interest in cancer prevention.

Guest:

  • Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of environmental and occupational medicine and chair of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. He is author of The Politics of Cancer Revisited. Call: 800.269.2921.

Related link:

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

According to a report leaked to the Washington Post, the US government is poised to declare firmly that dioxin, a toxin found throughout the food supply and in the bodies of most people in the world, causes cancer in people. Made notorious when it was fingered as the toxic component in Agent Orange, used to clear forests in the Vietnam War, dioxin caused the evacuation of the town of Times Beach, Missouri in 1983 and the Love Canal site in Niagara Falls, New York in 1978. The leaked report upgrades dioxin to the status of a “human carcinogen.”

Well, today on Democracy Now!, we’re going to take a look at the politics of cancer, from the pharmaceutical companies to the non-profits that claim to be fighting the disease. We’re going to look at the cancer establishment, specifically, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. We’re joined right now by Dr. Sam Epstein. He returns to our airwaves to continue our discussion.

Dr. Epstein, when you were here before, we got so many calls, when you came back to New York, we felt it was critical to have you back on the air.

Dr. Sam Epstein is a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago; an internationally recognized authority on the toxic and carcinogenic effects of environmental pollutants in air, water and the workplace; and also an expert on the ingredients and contaminants in consumer products — food, cosmetics and household products.

I want to start off with interesting news that I have really only heard about from you, brought to my attention by you, the idea of a top secret world science court? What is this all about? Who has proposed it, and what is your concern?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Well, at the recent Economic Summit Conference in Davos, which is an annual conference of heads of nations and other prominent political figures, Bruce Alberts, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, proposed to other national academies of governments all over the world that they should set up an international advisory council or commission to provide scientific guidance to governments on a wide range of policies ranging from biodiversity to health and safety. Well, everybody would agree that governments worldwide need scientific information. But is the NAS model, is the National Academy of Science model, the right way to go? And the answer is certainly not.

The National Academy of Sciences and its National Research Council has — is funded at the present moment by 85 percent of its funding comes from federal aid, from government, and 15 percent from nonfederal sources. But in spite of the strong tie-in with the government, the National Academy of Sciences remains a closed shop. It defies the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires that meetings should be open, there should be balanced representation, there should be open declaration of conflicts of interest. It’s a closed shop, and it’s heavily dominated and influenced by industry interests.

For instance, in 1996 the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council produced a report trivializing the significance of carcinogenic pesticides in foods. This committee was heavily represented with industry experts — so-called experts. And I warned, wrote to Bruce Alberts at the time, warning him about this. And he replied, it’s true, yes, these people are industry consultants, but they’ve also consulted to government agencies, therefore they’re alright.

Then, more recently still, at the last year, the National Research Council had created a committee to look into the question of genetically engineered products, and the committee, as initially constituted, was top heavy with industry representatives. And then three or four months during the deliberations, the director, Dr. Michael —- the executive director, Dr. Michael Phillips, suddenly resigned, and in fact he had been negotiating with the Technology Bioindustry Organization to take the new job. So -—

AMY GOODMAN: The Biotechnology Industry Organization is what? A PR arm, lobbying arm for —-

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: It’s an umbrella group. Well, it’s an umbrella -— it’s a trade group for the biotechnology industries. So, here we’re dealing with an attempt by Bruce Alberts to create a secret world science court, in which they have their own rules, nontransparent, closed to the public, no representation of scientific advisers to nongovernmental organizations. And especially as now they’re hunting around — the National Academy of Sciences is hunting around for non-federal sources of funding, which means industry. So Bruce Alberts has no idea what democracy is. He might as well be a medievalist somehow saying that we will decide what’s good for the nation. And this is an outrage in the twentieth century, in the year 2000, for Bruce Alberts to try to set up a secret world science court, which operates secretly, makes recommendations under these nontransparent, non-democratic procedures.

And very recently we’ve been told that Bruce Alberts has approached Kofi Annan. And Kofi Annan, in principle —-

AMY GOODMAN: UN Secretary-General.

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: UN Secretary-General. So I urge listeners to write in or to call their channel and object very strongly to Bruce Alberts’s world secret cabal of scientists, presumably largely representing industry and special interests, and warn Kofi Annan this is a dangerous -— this is one of the most dangerous recent developments, taking decision making out of the hands of independent experts and putting them in the hands of a group that has a track record of overwhelming conflicts of interest and a complete lack of understanding and recognition of fundamental principles of democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Sam Epstein with us, talking about this latest information of the president of the US National Academy of Sciences, Bruce Alberts and an unheralded group of a dozen other presidents of national science academies quietly gathering behind the scenes at the World Economic Forum in Davos, proposing the creation of an International Academy Council, an IAC, as a global science advisory board.

Well, I wanted to look at a number of issues that are of grave concern to people in this country and around the world. And it really has to do with the daily products we use, the foods that we eat. Let’s talk about saccharin.

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Well, saccharin, as early as the mid-'70s, saccharin had been clearly shown to be carcinogenic, to induce cancer in mice and in rats, not only in bladder, but also in a wide range of organs besides the bladder. Now, the reason why I mention bladder I'll come to in a moment. In addition to that, a very substantial epidemiological study has shown that people who regularly use sweeteners have major increases in the risks of bladder cancer.

Now, the only — with that as a background, let me mention that the only requirement, until very recently, for listing any carcinogen in foods was for saccharin in diet foods, and particularly the Sweet’N Low and other diet foods which contain saccharin. And there was a warning added to that that this may cause cancer — this causes cancer in animals, so beware. Now, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, under the direction of Dr. Ken Olden, has recently recommended and decided that saccharin should no longer be listed as a carcinogen, so FDA will be withdrawing this warning.

And I should mention that the Board of Scientific Council, as non-governmental advisers to the National Toxicology Program, voted against Olden’s proposal to de-list saccharin. And in spite of that, he proceeded to say it wasn’t carcinogenic, on the grounds that there’s evidence that the mechanism for bladder formation in rats is nonspecific, ignoring the fact that even at low doses saccharin induces cancers in a wide range of other organs in rodents and ignoring a solid epidemiological study clearly incriminating saccharin in relation to bladder cancer in humans. And in this — basically what has happened is that Ken Olden, together with friendly contacts at the Food and Drug Administration, including Dr. Bernard Schwetz, who used to work for Dow Chemical Company, who’s never saw a carcinogen that he didn’t like, working together with them, has ignored the scientific evidence and, under pressure and under influence from the Calorie Control Council, has given in. And I charge Dr. Olden, Ken Olden, with reckless irresponsibility and urge that he be brought before appropriate congressional committees to explain and account for his conduct, which I believe is tantamount to public health crime.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain the difference between saccharin, aspartame, NutraSweet. Which one is banned? Isn’t it saccharin in this country?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Well, we’re talking now specifically about saccharin. And let me point out that there’s two problems in this. The majority of uses of saccharin are in Sweet’N Low, which people have a package and adults use it. However, there is another very important source of exposure — and Sweet’N Low packages and other diet foods were labeled with saccharin. But there’s another very important source of exposure, particularly for children, young children, and that is, when they go to fast-food outlets and they get Coke or Pepsi there, there’s no requirement for labeling, and we have evidence that in the fast-food outlets where they’re supplying Coke, saccharin is added. Saccharin is the cheapest sweetener, and for the — it’s added together with — mixed together with aspartame, because there is a bitter taste for saccharin. So here we have a continuation of children’s exposure to this bladder carcinogen and also a precedent. The floodgates — industry is now attacking the whole of listing of carcinogens in a wide range of ways. They’ve done this with saccharin. They’ve tried to do this with tamoxifen.

AstraZeneca has been urging government not to list tamoxifen as carcinogenic. As you know, tamoxifen is being used to prevent cancer in women. There’s not the slightest evidence it would prevent breast cancer in women. There’s also clear-cut evidence that it produces a high incidence of complications, sometimes lethal short-term complications. And over and above that, the healthy women that are being dosed on this — and every woman over the age of sixty is regarded as at high risk, so essentially what AstraZeneca and the American Cancer Society want is to have a large-scale national program in which all women are put on tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer, when there’s no evidence this will do so. We have two European trials which show that it’s of no value in preventing breast cancer. And furthermore, we have strong evidence that the actual risks — uterine cancers, pulmonary embolism and other fatal short-term risks — far outweigh the alleged benefits. And in addition, women are not informed of an even more important risk — that is, the fact that tamoxifen is one of the most potent liver carcinogens. Now, let me be clear. We’re talking about the use of tamoxifen in healthy women because the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society, with strong enthusiastic backing of AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of tamoxifen, is persuading women to enter into trials with this, and also with another drug called raloxifene, or Evista, manufactured by Eli Lilly, which we’re told to be effective, but, in fact, Eli Lilly’s own evidence shows that it is a very serious risk factor for ovarian cancer. The lowest doses tested by Eli Lilly produced ovarian cancers in rats and mice. And this information hasn’t been disclosed by Eli Lilly on its warnings and is being totally ignored by the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk extensively about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in your new book The Politics of Cancer Revisited, talking about what many women would consider a very important month, to focus on the issue of breast cancer. It’s become the month of October. You say it’s an industry-sponsored month.

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: I say it’s a total scam. First of all, it’s been funded by Zeneca since about 1985. And Zeneca was a spinoff of Imperial Chemical Industries, the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial chemicals — carcinogenic industrial chemicals and pesticides. In National Breast Cancer Awareness month, there’s not a mention of prevention, and there’s a wide range of known risk factors or causes of breast cancer. Not a word about that. The focus is on mammography, almost exclusively premenopausal mammography. There’s no mention of the fact that premenopausal mammography is — America is the only country in the world that recommends premenopausal mammography. No other country practices it, for two reasons. It’s ineffective. There’s a high incidence of falsely diagnosed breast cancers and high incidence of missed breast cancers. And also, it’s dangerous because of the high levels of radiation, because of the compression of the breast, which can rupture small blood — doing two plates during the mammography, which can rupture small blood vessels and spread an early undiagnosed breast cancer into one that’s lethal, as it metastasizes, and other series of other reasons.

And as far even as postmenopausal mammography, a recent prestigious study in the most prestigious journal, The Lancet, did an analysis on postmenopausal mammography and came to the conclusion there’s no evidence for its effectiveness at all. And here we have an industry which the American Cancer Society is pushing to be routine for all women in this country, which will cost at least $5 billion a year just for premenopausal women, which is dangerous, which is ineffective. And we have breast self-examination, which is at least as effective. And women can be trained to do — to examine their breasts within fifteen to thirty minutes. They can practice breast self-examination once a month. It’s cheap, it’s safe, and it’s effective. No more than ninety percent of all breast cancers are recognized by women themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Sam Epstein. We have to break for stations to identify themselves. He’s the author of The Politics of Cancer Revisited, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back with him in just a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: My guest is Dr. Samuel Epstein. He is author of The Politics of Cancer Revisited, his latest book. It’s close to 800 pages. It’s a republishing with a lot of new information of the original bible, The Politics of Cancer. He is a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, has written hundreds of articles on cancer, and is specifically an expert on the toxic and carcinogenic effects of environmental pollutants in air, water and the workplace, and also looks at ingredients and contaminants in consumer products — foods, cosmetics and household products. What should we be most concerned about, Dr. Epstein?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: We should be concerned, most of all, about the fact that the nation is facing an unparalleled epidemic of cancer. One in every two men will get cancer in their lifetime. One in every three women will get cancer in their lifetime. You can’t explain this away on the basis of genetics or increased longevity or just on smoking. Smoking is responsible for about a quarter or so of the increase in the incidence of cancer since 1950. For many cancers, non-smoking cancers, we have seen rates of increase of 200 percent, like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and prostate cancer. We’ve had childhood brain and nervous system cancers, a 40 percent increase, and so on and so forth.

Now, there’s strong evidence relating this unparalleled escalation of cancer rates to avoidable exposures to industrial carcinogens in our total environment — our air, our water, our consumer products and the workplace. By "consumer products," I mean foods, cosmetics and household products. And in the book The Politics of Cancer Revisited, we go into this in some detail and provide information on the hazards from mainstream foods, from mainstream cosmetics and toiletries and mainstream household products — in other words, by "mainstream," I mean ones produced by the large industries — and point out that these — that virtually there is no labeling whatsoever. In food, for instance, of all the thousands of different toxic and carcinogenic ingredients in vegetables and produce, there is no warning on the cancer risks of any particular food. For hot dogs, for instance, which are heavily contaminated with nitrosamines, due to the presence of nitrites, which interact with amines there, we have evidence showing that regular consumption of hot dogs is associated with a fourfold increase in brain cancer in children and a sevenfold increase in leukemia. Milk in this country, which comes from cows injected with a genetically engineered hormone, poses grave risks of breast, colon and prostate cancer. Cosmetics and toiletries have a list of ingredients on the back, but without any expert knowledge of chemistry and toxicology and carcinogenesis, these names mean absolutely nothing, no indication — there’s no indication as to which of these are carcinogenic. And furthermore, there’s a lot of ingredients themselves which are harmless, but which contain — which can act either as precursors of carcinogens or breakdown or are contaminated. With household products, there’s no labeling whatsoever.

But there’s a vast body of information tucked away in the scientific literature or buried in government and industry files on the carcinogenic, avoidable risks of exposures to these products. Now, we’re not dealing with a Chicken Little, sky-is-falling-in situation, because for every unsafe product on the market, for every unsafe consumer product, there are safe alternatives: safe alternatives by the growing organic industry, organic food industry, by the growing alternative safe product industry, by the growing alternative safe household product industry. These are small industries, but what consumers can do is they can punish the reckless industries by boycotting them and safe for — and shop for safe products. In other words, let the marketplace and consumer knowledge and information take over from where the cancer establishment — the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society — has failed to inform Congress, regulatory agencies and the public of these avoidable risks. And for these reasons, I charge the cancer establishment — the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society — with major responsibility for losing a winnable war against cancer.

AMY GOODMAN: You did an exposé that you got a Project Censored Award this year for on the American Cancer Society, one of the largest nonprofits in this country today, one of the wealthiest, asking questions like where have all the billions gone? But can you talk about your concerns about the board of trustees of the American Cancer Society?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Well, the foundation, the board of the trustees on the foundation, of the directors of the foundation, are a who’s who of industry interests, particularly the cancer drug industry — Amgen, Biogen, what have you — also a wide range of other industries, and these are industries that contribute over $100,000 a year. So with the banking investment and the biotechnology and entertainment industries, they really have a pretty strong grip on the American Cancer Society. And the fact that they were chosen really reflects the American Cancer Society’s close and interlocking interests with a wide range of industries, ranging from the cancer drug industry to the cosmetic industry to the mammography industry.

And, in fact, I should quote from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which is the nation’s leading watchdog for charities — and I quote verbatim — “The American Cancer Society is more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives.” And in the book The Politics of Cancer Revisited, I list, provide a laundry list, of acts of hostility or indifference of the American Cancer Society to prevention. Of its budget of $700 million a year, less than one-half percent goes on prevention. And it’s the annual facts and figures. There’s virtually no mention at all of prevention of any cancers.

But let me just give you a couple of examples of their recklessness. As you know, there is a law called the Delaney Law, which was passed at the initiative of Congressman Delaney in 1958, which basically says, "Thou shalt not add any carcinogen to foodstuff," and the — whether it’s been shown to be carcinogenic in animal systems or in human studies. And historically, for the last twenty-five years or so, the American Cancer Society has fought vigorously against this. And just very recently, the American Cancer Society joined forces with the Chlorine Institute — listen to this, to the Chlorine Institute, which represents the interests of the pesticides worldwide, particularly the chlorinated organic pesticides, in an effort to trivialize growing national concerns of contamination of foods with carcinogenic pesticides. And the list goes on and on.

And for this reason, I strongly urge the public to boycott the American Cancer Society. And I charge them with overwhelming indifference, reckless indifference, with bloated budgets, with high salaries, with high expense accounts, and with misleading the public into the fact they’re winning the war against cancer, whereas, in fact, they play a major role in losing a winnable war. And the money that is now being given to the American Cancer Society should instead be given to local community organizations which are fighting battles against cancer or to large national organizations which have cancer prevention as one of their objectives. And I should mention that in the website of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, you’ll find a great deal more information on the American Cancer Society. And our website is preventcancer — all one word — dot com, preventcancer.com. And, of course, far more details in the book The Politics of Cancer Revisited.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Sam Epstein is our guett. What about the emphasis on diagnosis and treatment and genetic research when it comes to cancer? You often hear, well, they’re looking into the breast cancer gene.

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Well, as a scientist who’s worked in fundamental mechanisms of carcinogenesis and as a physician who’s worked in major medical centers treating cancer both in England and in this country, I think it’s absolutely critical that we spend time, energy, money and research on diagnosis and on treatment and basic genetic research. Nobody argues that. What we’re arguing about is the total imbalance. We’re arguing between that and prevention. The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society are fixated on damage control, treatment and diagnosis and genetic research, but with indifference or hostility to cancer prevention. What we’re talking about is a parity. In other words, at least 50 percent of the budget of the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society should go towards research in the areas of primary prevention, to providing information to Congress, to regulatory agencies and the public. And this doesn’t happen at the moment.

And also, this research on genetics, of course, is of fundamental importance, but genetics can’t explain in any way the massive escalation in cancer rates since 1950. The population — the genetics of human populations hasn’t changed for thousands of years, so genetics has nothing to do with the escalating incidence of cancer. Furthermore, you can’t explain it away on the basis of longevity, because all our data on increasing rates are standardized to reflect the increasing age. And you can’t explain it away on the basis of smoking, because smoking is responsible for about a quarter of the increase of the incidence of overall cancers. And most of them, dramatic other increases, are in non-smoking-related cancers like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, childhood cancers, etc.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Sam Epstein, what about specifics about the products we use? For example, you write in your book The Politics of Cancer Revisited about lanolin. What is lanolin, and is it dangerous, in itself?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Lanolin comes from sheep’s wool, and most of us will assume that it’s a perfectly harmless product. And, in fact, it could be a harmless product, but for the fact that at least half the preparations of lanolin —-

AMY GOODMAN: This goes into creams, skin creams?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: It has very wide uses in personal-care products -— are contaminated with chlorinated organic pesticides, particularly DDT. And this is — so when you see the label lanolin, where you see lanolin mentioned, you think it’s perfectly safe, but in fact, as I say, it’s highly contaminated.

Now, I should point out that cosmetics —- that we’re dealing with four sets of problem areas in which the consumer can protect himself or herself. One is foods. Two is cosmetics and toiletries. Three is household products. As detailed in the book, the mainstream products, they are heavily contaminated with undisclosed carcinogenic ingredients and contaminants. The public is given no information. Let me give you another example of a product which is a very serious one: talcum powder, for instance, manufactured and sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson. We have strong evidence showing that routine application of talc to the genital area of women, particularly in their reproductive years, is associated with a three— to four-fold increased risk of ovarian cancer. Is there any —-

AMY GOODMAN: Of ovarian cancer?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Ovarian Cancer, a highly lethal cancer. Is there any warning on the label? No. Has FDA taken any action? No. I filed a citizen petition -— well, the Cancer Prevention Coalition filed a citizen petition on this, demanding the labeling of talc. The answer was a deafening silence. Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb also didn’t respond. And is there a safe alternative? You bet there is. Cornstarch, just as effective and no hazard. And we’re not dealing with a — and I could go through the whole list of thousands of personal-care products on the market.

We’re not dealing with a Chicken Little, sky-is-falling-in situation. In all of these areas, when it comes to foods, you’ve got a growing market for organic foods, which are free of carcinogenic pesticides. You’ve got skim milk, particularly skim milk coming from farms like Horizon or Swiss Valley Dairy Farm that get milk from farmers, dairy farmers, that don’t use the genetically engineered hormone rBGH. And this milk, which is contaminated with very high levels of a growth factor known as Rgf1, is strongly associated with major increased risks of breast, colon and prostrate cancer. So, when it comes to foods, you’ve got the safe alternatives.

When it comes to household products, which contain no ingredient disclosure, and they are literally witches’ brews of carcinogens, you’ve got Seventh Generation, which provides safe alternatives. And when it comes to the personal-care products, you’ve got Aubrey Hampton, which is a US manufacturer of safe products, and you’ve got Neways, which is a MLM, multilevel marketing international company, which produces products which are — personal-care products which do not contain any carcinogenic ingredients or contaminants.

AMY GOODMAN: What about hormone-injected beef and hormone-injected milk? What exactly is that? Monsanto has been fighting companies around this country not to label products rBGH-free or bovine growth hormone-free, because they say it suggests that it’s dangerous.

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Well, it didn’t have to fight very hard, because the Food and Drug Administration has been working hand in hand with Monsanto since 1982. And information in FDA files clearly shows that, first of all, that rBGH produces very serious veterinary hazards, in fact.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what it is.

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: RBGH is genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, which normally bovine — growth hormones is responsible for lactation both in humans and in cows. And by injecting this genetically engineered hormone, you increase levels of milk production by about ten percent. But you also induce a wide range of veterinary — serious veterinary hazards in cattle, which now some twenty of these are finally disclosed on the label. But in addition, drinking this milk is associated with major increased risks of breast, colon or prostate cancers due to the very high levels of Rgf1. And FDA knows all about this, so they work hand in hand.

And the interesting — most important thing about it is, Monsanto is now saying "trust us" when it comes to genetically engineered foods — the soy and others — without any published evidence on the safety or the — of environmental and public health safety. It says, "Trust us." But the last twenty years of track record of Monsanto on rBGH, genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, is a track record of manipulation and suppression of data, which, to my mind, from a public health standpoint, is criminal. And this is facilitated by the silence of the National Cancer Institute, the active support of Monsanto by American Cancer Society, and so on and so forth, and also the fact that Monsanto has infiltrated all levels of government and all branches of government.

AMY GOODMAN: Sam Epstein, what are your most important words of wisdom to leave our listeners with, when it comes to the battle against cancer, both personally and politically?

DR. SAM EPSTEIN: Two things. There are innumerable ways in which you can reduce your risks of cancer, by — first of all, by shopping for safe products, consumer products of the kind we talked about — food, cosmetics and toiletries and household products. Secondly, a very wide range of cancers, ranging from breast cancers, ovarian cancers, childhood cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we do know the causes of these, and there are simple ways of reducing exposure, the involuntary and avoidable exposures to these. So I urge listeners to inform themselves. You’ll find detailed information in the book in the appendices on the risks of hormonal milk, of rBGH milk, the risks of sex hormones in meat, the consumer products and the dangers of prescription drugs.

I should point out that some nearly one-third of prescription drugs which are being used — and I should mention that over a lifetime the average person uses about 700 prescription drugs. But in an industry-sponsored survey, In a secret industry-sponsored survey, it was shown that about 30 percent of the drugs looked at were carcinogenic. And, in fact, let me just point out that if you want to compare prescription drugs and lung — and smoking, the annual incidence of lung cancer in heavy smokers is one in 250. The incidence of uterine cancer in women that are on, unopposed, on estrogen replacement therapy for ten years is one in a hundred. So this is just one example of the overwhelming risks of prescription drugs.

So when you go to your doctor, ask your doctor, "Is there any evidence that this drug is carcinogenic?" And he’ll say, “Well, why do you ask?” Well, say, “I want to know.” And then he’ll be irritated, but it’ll force him to look up the Physicians’ Desk Reference. And if there’s evidence based on animal studies or on human studies that it’s carcinogenic, refuse to take that drug and insist on a safe alternative. The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society has failed. Regulatory agencies have failed. The initiatives are in your hands to protect yourself and to take political action, both by boycotting the American Cancer Society, demanding congressional inquiries on the track record of the National Cancer Institute to explain its criminal neglect of prevention, which is a major factor in the massive increase in cancer rates over the last few decades.

AMY GOODMAN: Sam Epstein, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Dr. Sam Epstein is a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. His book is called The Politics of Cancer Revisited.

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