from the Wash. Post 11-4-07
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
Off Target in the War on Cancer
By Devra Davis
Sunday, November 4, 2007; Page B01
We’ve been fighting the war on cancer for almost four decades now, since President Richard M. Nixon officially launched it in 1971. It’s time to admit that our efforts have often targeted the wrong enemies and used the wrong weapons.
Throughout the industrial world, the war on cancer remains focused on commercially fueled efforts to develop drugs and technologies that can find and treat the disease — to the tune of more than $100 billion a year in the United States alone. Meanwhile, the struggle basically ignores most of the things known to cause cancer, such as tobacco, radiation, sunlight, benzene, asbestos, solvents, and some drugs and hormones. Even now, modern cancer-causing agents such as gasoline exhaust, pesticides and other air pollutants are simply deemed the inevitable price of progress.
They’re not. Scientists understand that most cancer is not born but made. Although identical twins start life with amazingly similar genetic material, as adults they do not develop the same cancers. As with most of us, where they live and work and the habits that they develop do more to determine their health than their genes do. Americans in their 20s today carry around in their bodies levels of some chemicals that can impair their ability to produce healthy children — and increase the chances that those children will develop cancer.
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Devra Davis, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, directs the Center for Environmental Oncology. Her most recent book is “The Secret History
of the War on Cancer.”
Posted by Joel T Nowak MA, MSW
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