The American Cancer Society (ACS), "More Interested In Accumulating Wealth Than Saving Lives," Warns Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.

Mar 14, 2011, 13:06 ET from Cancer Prevention Coalition

CHICAGO, March 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A report on the American Cancer Society (ACS), "More Interested In Accumulating Wealth Than Saving Lives" was released today. This report is authored by Dr. Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, and Emeritus professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and endorsed by Congressman John Conyers Jr., Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Quentin Young M.D., Chairman of the Health and Medicine Policy research Group, and Past President of the American Public Health Association.

The report traces the track record of the ACS, since its founding in 1913 by a group of oncologists and wealthy business men until this year. It documents the virtually exclusive priority of the ACS to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, with indifference to prevention, other than that due to faulty personal lifestyle. Commonly known as "blame the victim," this excludes the very wide range of scientifically well-documented avoidable causes of cancer.

The ACS track record also clearly reflects frank conflicts of interest. About half the ACS board are clinicians, oncologists, surgeons, and radiologists, mostly with close ties to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Many board members and their institutional colleagues apply to and obtain funding from both the ACS and the NCI. Substantial NCI funds also go to ACS directors who sit on key NCI committees. Although the ACS asks its board members to leave the room when others review their funding proposals, this is just a token formality. In this private club, easy access to funding is one of the perks, as the board routinely rubber-stamps approvals. A significant amount of ACS funding also goes to this extended membership. Frank conflicts of interest are also evident in many ACS priorities. These include policies on mammography, the National Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, and the pesticide and cancer drug industries. These conflicts extend to the virtual privatization of national cancer policy.

For instance the ACS has close connections to the mammography industry. Five radiologists have served as ACS presidents. In its every move, the ACS reflects the interests of the major manufacturers of mammography, films and machines. These include Siemens, DuPont, General Electric, Eastman Kodak, and Piker, which allocate considerable funds to the ACS.

ACS promotion still continues to lure women of all ages into mammography centers, leading them to believe that mammography is their best hope against breast cancer. An ACS advertisement in a leading Massachusetts newspaper featured a photograph of two women in their twenties that recklessly promised that early detection results in a cure "nearly 100 percent of the time." An ACS communications director, questioned by journalist Kate Dempsey, responded in an article published by the Massachusetts Women's Community's journal Cancer: "The ad isn't based on a study. When you make an advertisement, you just say what you can to get women in the door. You exaggerate a point. Mammography today is a lucrative [and] highly competitive business". However, the National Academy of Science has warned that the premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, and that annual mammography can increase risks of breast cancer by 10%. Furthermore, the US Preventive Task Force, supported by the National Breast Cancer Coalition, has recently recommended that routine mammography should be delayed until the age of 50 and practiced every 2 years subsequently until the age of 75.

The ACS has also had a strong relation with a wide range of industries, including the pesticide and cancer drug. Responding to concerns on risks on carcinogenic pesticides in food, the ACS responded "We have no cancer cases in which pesticide use was confirmed as the cause". Also referring to concerns on the multibillion dollar cancer drug industry sales, the ACS dismisses "unproven," non-patentable and minimally toxic alternatives. This claim however is in the striking contrast to its hidden conflicts of interest.

Public Relations

1998-2000: PR for the ACS was handled by Shandwick International, whose major clients included R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings.

2000-2002: PR for the ACS was handled by Edelman Public Relations, whose major clients included Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, and Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris, Kraft, and fast food and soft drink beverage companies. All these companies were preemptively dismissed once this information was revealed by the Cancer Prevention Coalition.

Industry Funding

ACS has receive contributions in excess of $100,000 from a wide range of "Excalibur Donors." Some of these companies were responsible for environmental pollution with carcinogens, while others manufactured and sold products containing toxic and carcinogenic ingredients. These include:

  • Petrochemical companies (DuPont; BP; and Pennzoil)
  • Industrial waste companies (BFI Waste Systems)
  • Big Pharma (AstraZeneca; Bristol Myers Squibb; GlaxoSmithKline; Merck & Company; and Novartis)
  • Auto companies (Nissan; and General Motors)
  • Cosmetic companies (Christian Dior; Avon; Revlon; and Elizabeth Arden)
  • Junk food companies (Wendy's International; McDonalds's; Unilever/Best Foods; and Coca-Cola)
  • Biotech companies (Amgen; and Genentech)

Nevertheless, as reported in the December 8, 2009 New York Times, the ACS claimed that it "holds itself to the highest standards of transparency and public accountability". Of  major concern is the reckless record of the ACS with regard to cancer prevention over the past four decades.

1971  When studies unequivocally proved that diethylstilbestrol (DES) caused vaginal cancers in teenage daughters of women administered the drug during pregnancy, the ACS refused an invitation to testify at Congressional hearings to require the Food and Drug Administration to ban its use as an animal feed additive. It gave no reason for its refusal. Not surprisingly, U.S. meat is banned by other nations worldwide.

1983  The ACS refused to join a coalition of the March of Dimes, American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association to support the Clean Air Act.

1992  The ACS issued a joint statement with the Chlorine Institute in support of the continued global use of organochlorine pesticides, despite clear evidence that some were known to cause breast cancer. In this statement, ACS vice president Clark Heath, M.D., dismissed the evidence of any risk as "preliminary and mostly based on a weak and indirect association."

1993  Just before PBS Frontline aired the special entitled, "In Our Children's Food," the ACS came out in support of the pesticide industry. In a damage-control memorandum sent to some 48 regional divisions and their 3,000 local offices, the ACS trivialized pesticides as a cause of childhood cancer. The ACS also reassured the public that carcinogenic pesticide residues in food are safe, even for babies.

1994 The ACS published a study designed to reassure women on the safety of dark permanent hair dyes, and to trivialize risk of fatal and non-fatal cancers, particularly non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as documented in over six prior reports.

1999 The ACS denied any risks of cancer from drinking genetically-engineered (rBGH) milk. Its position has remained unchanged in spite of strong scientific decade old strong evidence relating rBGH milk to major risks of breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

2000 The Washington-Insider Cancer Letter, revealed that the ACS has close ties to the tobacco industry, notably Shandwick International, representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings, and subsequently Edelman Public Relations, representing Brown & Williamson Tobacco company.

2002 The ACS initiated the "Look Good...Feel Better" program to teach women cancer patients beauty techniques to help restore their appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation treatment." This program was partnered by the National Cosmetology Association and The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Foundation, which failed to disclose the wide range of carcinogenic ingredients in toiletries and cosmetics. These trade organizations also failed to disclose evidence of risks of breast and other cancers following long-term use of black or dark brown permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes. The ACS also failed to inform women of these avoidable risks. The Environmental Cancer Risk Section of the ACS Facts and Figures Report also reassured that carcinogenic exposures from dietary pesticides, "toxic wastes in dump sites" -- are "all at such low levels that risks are negligible."

2007 The ACS indifference to cancer prevention, other than smoking, has remained unchanged despite its $1 billion budget, and despite the escalating incidence of cancer from 1975. This includes post menopausal breast cancer, 23%; childhood cancer, 30%; testis cancer 60%; and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, 82%.

2009 The ACS budget was about $1 billion, of which 17% was allotted to smoking cessation programs, and 28% to support services and salaries. The top three executive salaries ranged from $670,000 to $1.2 million.

2010  The ACS rejected the April 2010 President's Cancer Panel report, "Reducing Environmental Cancer." This had been widely endorsed by leading scientific and public policy experts. Nevertheless, the ACS brazenly claimed that more studies were needed to justify this conclusion.

The ACS track record of frank indifference to cancer prevention, other than that due to faulty lifestyle, extends to cancer organizations in Canada and 90 nations worldwide in support of  their "Relay For Life" programs. Team members take turns to walk or run around a track for 12-24 hours. "Through the Relay, these organizations bring together passionate volunteers, to take action in the international movement to end cancer," by stopping smoking and developing healthy lifestyles. Funds raised by these Relays support local organizations' cancer control programs, services, and research". These organizations also contribute part of their funds to ACS "cancer control programs" worldwide.

Clearly the ACS continues to forfeit the decades old international public trust and support.

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; and a former President of the Rachel Carson Trust. His awards include the 1998 Right Livelihood Award and the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention. Dr. Epstein has authored 270 scientific articles and 20 books on cancer prevention, including the groundbreaking "The Politics of Cancer" (1979), and most recently "Toxic Beauty" (2009, Benbella Books:  about carcinogens, besides other toxic ingredients, in cosmetics and personal care products. Email: Web:

Contact: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., 312-996-2297,

SOURCE Cancer Prevention Coalition