American Cancer Society Trivializes Cancer Risks: Blatant Conflicts of Interest

Chicago, Illinois, May 7, 2010 — The President’s Cancer Panel’s report from May 6 is well-researched. It issues warnings on the scientific data on cancer-causing agents found in consumer products, the workplace, and water that can be avoided. According to Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, it also alerts readers to the hormonal dangers associated with exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA) and other harmful plastic pollutants (CPC).

Twenty eminent scientists and public policy experts supported a news statement from the Cancer Prevention Coalition on January 23, 2009, which detailed concerns about cancer’s preventable causes and encouraged President Obama’s cancer plan to include a strong emphasis on prevention. A news statement on June 15, 2009 went into further detail about these issues. In a press statement from the CPC on May 6, 2010, the hazards of BPA are also described in detail.

Their skyrocketing growth from 1975 to 2005 demonstrate some of the more surprising truths in the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) and the “non-profit” American Cancer Society’s (ACS) long-standing failure to prevent a very wide spectrum of cancers..

These include:

  •         • The usage of sunscreens in infancy that do not block long wave UV light has led to a 168 percent rise in malignant melanoma of the skin in adulthood;
  • Ionizing radiation is mostly to blame for the 124 percent rise in thyroid cancer;
  • Phenoxy herbicides and phenylenediamine hair dyes are mostly to blame for the 76% increase in Non-lymphoma Hodgkin’s cases;
  • As a result of pesticides, estrogen residues in meat, and hormonal components in cosmetics and personal care goods, testicular cancer cases have increased by 49%;
  • Ionizing radiation, household pesticides, nitrite preservatives in meat, notably hot dogs, and parental exposure to occupational carcinogens have all contributed to a 55 percent rise in childhood leukemia;
  • Talc powder use in genital areas has elevated ovary cancer (mortality) in women over 65 by 47% in African American women and 13% in Caucasian women;


Numerous causes have contributed to the 17 percent increase in breast cancer cases. Birth control medications, estrogen replacement therapy, harmful hormonal components in cosmetic and personal care items, and diagnostic tests are some examples.

regular premenopausal mammography, which can expose the breast to up to five rads of radiation over the course of ten years.

According to Dr. Epstein, the American Cancer Society’s criticisms that the President’s Cancer Panel report exaggerates preventable cancer risks show irresponsible indifference in addition to narrow self-interest.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the nation’s top charity watchdog, issued a warning in 1993 against the American Cancer Society receiving funding from the public coffers for private use. The ACS is more focused in generating riches than protecting lives, The Chronicle further said.

The ACS’s track record for well over the last four decades amply supports these warnings.


  • 1971: Despite unambiguous evidence of its carcinogenicity and the cancer risks associated with consuming hormonal meat, the ACS declined to testify at congressional hearings demanding that the FDA outlaw the intramuscular injection of diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogenic hormone, to fatten cattle before their entry into feedlots prior to slaughter. Unsurprisingly, most nations in the globe forbid the consumption of American meat.
  • In 1977, the American Cancer Society (ACS) resisted regulating paraphenylenediamine-based black or dark brown hair dyes, despite abundant evidence of their links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers.
  • In 1978, Tony Mazzocchi, a leading international union labor official at the time, expressed disapproval of the ACS for not supporting occupational safety requirements. This has led to an increase in the incidence of numerous preventable malignancies.
  • In 1978, Congressman Paul Rogers criticized ACS for failing to support the Clean Air Act in an effort to safeguard the interests of the car industry.
  • In 1982, the American Cancer Society (ACS) introduced stringent cancer regulations and disregarded findings derived from widely used rat tests, which are also accepted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • 1984: To deceive women into believing that “early (mammography) identification resulted in a cure approximately 100% of the time,” the ACS established the industry-funded October National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In response, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) acknowledged that “mammography now is a lucrative [and] highly competitive business.” Additionally, the Awareness Month ignores a lot of data on preventable causes of breast cancer.
  • 1992: Despite the persistent nature of chlorinated pesticides in the environment and their carcinogenicity, the ACS backed the Chlorine Institute in supporting their ongoing use.
  • 1993: The American Cancer Society (ACS) downplayed the role of pesticides in the development of pediatric cancer and accused PBS of using “junk science” in advance of the Frontline special “In Our Children’s Food” on the Public Broadcast Service (PBS). Can we afford the PBS, the ACS questioned further?
  • In 1994, the ACS released a seriously faulty research intended to downplay the cancer risks associated with the use of dark hair colors.
  • In 1998, the ACS claimed to have funded environmental cancer research with $330,000, or less than 1% of its then $680 million budget.
  • In 1999, the ACS downplayed the dangers of drinking milk that has been genetically modified to produce rBGH for breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Naturally, most countries in the globe forbid the consumption of American milk.

The Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association began the “Look Good…Feel Better Program” in 1989 with the goal of “assisting women cancer patients restore their appearance and self-image following chemotherapy and radiation treatment.” In 2002, the ACS announced its active participation in the initiative. Many of the top cosmetics companies participated in this program, and they failed carelessly—if not illegally—to disclose the carcinogenic and other toxic ingredients in the products they gave away to vulnerable women.


  • In 2002, the ACS assured the public that cancer risks are negligible due to the low levels of carcinogenicity exposures from dietary pesticides, “toxic waste in dump sites,” “ionizing radiation from “closely controlled” nuclear power plants,” and non-ionizing radiation. Following the appointment of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, ACS Past President-Elect, as NCI Director, the ACS’s disregard for cancer prevention was further entrenched in national cancer policy.
  • 2005: Despite the rising incidence of cancer and its $billion budget, the ACS’s disregard for cancer prevention outside of smoking remains unaffected.


Dr. Epstein adds that the ACS’s disregard for cancer prevention also exhibits significant conflicts of interest with regard to public relations.



  • Shandwick International, whose major clients included R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings, handled PR for the ACS from 1998 to 2000.

Dr. Epstein emphasizes that the ACS’s disregard for cancer prevention also exhibits significant conflicts of interest with regard to public relations.



 Shandwick International, whose key clients included R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings, handled PR for the ACS from 1998 to 2000.


2000–2002: The Altria Group, the parent corporation of Philip Morris, Kraft, fast food chains, and soft drink producers, as well as Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, handled Edelman Public Relations’ PR for the ACS. Once the CPC made this information public, all of these companies were swiftly fired.



The ACS’s disregard for cancer prevention is a direct result of significant industrial support. Dr. Epstein notes that numerous “Excalibur Donors,” many of whom still produce hazardous products, have given ACS contributions totaling more than $100,000.


These consist of:


  • Petrochemical businesses (DuPont; BP; and Pennzoil)
  • Industrial waste management firms (BFI Waste Systems)
  • Junk food producers, including Wendy’s International, McDonald’s, Unilever/Best Foods, and Coca-Cola
  • Big Pharmaceutical (AstraZenceca; Bristol Myers Squibb; GlaxoSmithKline; Merck & Company; and Novartis)
  • Businesses that use biotechnology (Amgen; and Genentech)
  • Retailers of cosmetics (Christian Dior; Avon; Revlon; Elizabeth Arden; and Estee Lauder)
  • Automobile manufacturers (Nissan; General Motors)


The ACS answered that it “holds itself to the greatest standards of transparency and public accountability,” despite this lengthy history of flagrant conflicts of interest, as documented in the December 8, 2009 New York Times, cautions Dr. Epstein.


Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is an emeritus professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, and recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention in 2005. He is also the author of 20 books and more than 270 scientific articles on the causes and prevention of cancer, including the ground-breaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), Cancer-Gate: How the Government Covered Up the World’ (2009, BenBella Books).


To read Dr. Epstein’s columns in the Huffington Post, go to:


Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.

Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition

Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine

University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health

Chicago, Illinois

Tel: 312-996-2297


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