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"The War On Cancer"


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Author Examines How Industry Downplayed Environmental Causes Of Cancer

Stacia Erdos

POSTED: 5:02 pm EDT September 28, 2007

UPDATED: 6:59 pm EDT September 28, 2007

PITTSBURGH -- This year, almost one and a half million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer.

President Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer in 1971.

Even though it was less than a decade after the surgeon general's report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer, Nixon never mentioned tobacco.

According to Dr. Devra Davis, director of the University of Pittsburgh Environmental Oncology Center, it was no accident the war on cancer was focused on finding and treating the disease and not on its causes.

In her new book, "The Secret History of the War on Cancer, Davis looks at why research on cancer prevention was downplayed and findings on environmental causes of cancer were suppressed.

"The reason is complicated, but it has to do with the fact in part that those industries, tobacco in particular and the petro chemical industry, were very strong and the idea you might need to rethink the way you use petro chemicals or the way we relied on tobacco was not something that was going to be easily considered in public discussion."

In her book she also reveals some surprising information about people involved in the early years of the war on cancer.

Davis said, "The American Cancer Society's early history included a fella that championed tobacco and on the board of the American Cancer Society in the 1950s were a number of people who lead advertising strategies to promote tobacco.’Doctors smoke more Camels,' one of the ads ran, and 'Doctors believe you can smooth your throat by smoking,' another ad ran."

The first X-rays were developed in 1895, and Davis said it wasn't long before radiation was linked to cancer, but Davis said it was only in 2001 that the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the overuse of X-rays.

"A lot diagnostic radiation is life saving, but a lot of it is unnecessary. The American College of Radiology estimates in the U.S. in a single year, we get as much exposure from current diagnostic radiation as was released by the Chernobyl explosion."

The Pap smear to detect cervical cancer was developed in the 1920s. In her book, Davis reveals why it took more than 20 years before it was used.

"There were others who thought it was going to undermine the private practice of medicine, impair ability of surgeons and obstetricians and gynecologists to do their job by farming this stuff out. They resisted it for a long time," Davis said.

Davis will discuss the origins of and lessons learned from the War on Cancer as detailed in her new book, "The Secret History of the War on Cancer" on Monday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Auditorium 6, Scaife Hall, 3500 Terrace St., Oakland.

Copyright 2007 by Wpxi.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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