Previously in this series we looked at the cozy relationship between the American Cancer Society and the chemical industry, including how that industry had been the source of both board members and major donations. A stark example of the influence chemical that makers wielded with the American Cancer Society (ACS) came in the spring of 1993 when the ACS helped attack an upcoming documentary about pesticide dangers.
Shortly before PBS was due to broadcast the documentary on Frontline, a draft of the script was leaked to the powerful public relations firm Porter-Novelli. Porter-Novelli had notable clients on both sides of the fence, including the ACS as well as Ciba-Geigy, DuPont, Monsanto, Burroughs Wellcome, American Petroleum Institute, the Center for Produce Quality, the USDA, the NCI, and other National Institutes of Health.
Porter-Novelli first crafted a rebuttal to help the manufacturers quell public fears about pesticide-contaminated food. Next, Porter-Novelli called up another client, the ACS, for whom Porter-Novelli had done pro bono work for years. The rebuttal that Porter-Novelli had just sent off to its industry clients was faxed to ACS Atlanta headquarters. Then it was circulated internationally by email so that the 3,000 regional ACS offices could use it to help field calls from the public after the show aired.
The ACS memo stated: “The program makes unfounded suggestions . . . that pesticide residue in food may be at hazardous levels. Its use of a ‘cancer cluster’ leukemia case report and non-specific community illnesses as alleged evidence of pesticide effects in people is unfortunate. We know of no community cancer clusters which have been shown to be anything other than chance grouping of cases and none in which pesticide use was confirmed as the cause.”
Later, Accuracy in Media’s newsletter trumpeted quotes from the this memo in an article whose banner headline read Junk Science on PBS. The article began “Can we afford the Public Broadcasting Service?” and went on to disparage the PBS documentary. “In Our Children’s Food . . . exemplified what the media has done to produce these ‘popular panics’ and the enormously costly waste (at PBS) cited by the New York Times.”
When public television producer Marty Koughman saw the article he was outraged and initially believed the ACS had somehow been duped. Later, however, Koughan figured out what was really going on after several failed attempts to get an ACS rebuttal. “When I realized Porter-Novelli represented five agrichemical companies, and that the ACS had been a client for years, it became obvious that the ACS had not been fooled at all,” said Koughan. “They were willing partners in the deception, and were in fact doing a favor for a friend, by flakking for the agrichemical industry.”
Koughan’s investigation had relied heavily on a ground-breaking report issued by the National Academy of Sciences in June of 1993 entitled Pesticides in the Diet of Children. The report declared the nation’s food supply was “inadequately protected” from cancer-causing pesticides and a significant threat to the health of children. An earlier report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1989 titled Intolerable Risk: Pesticides in our Children’s Food, had also castigated pesticide manufacturers.
Former director of the National Academy of Sciences board of agriculture, Charles Benbrook, had worked on the pesticide report by the Academy of Sciences. He charged that the role of the ACS as a source of information for the pesticide and product industry was “unconscionable.” Investigative reporter Sheila Kaplan went a step further in a 1993 Legal Times article: “What they did was clearly and unequivocally over the line, and constitutes a major conflict of interest.”
The America Cancer Society and the mammogram industry
Despite increasing studies and reports which have warned of the dangers and questionable benefits from mammograms, the ACS continues to promote mammograms and lure women of all ages into mammography centers. By doing so, the ACS helps provide patients to the cancer industry and huge profits to manufacturers of mammogram machines and films. Thus, the ACS continues in virtually all of its important actions to be strongly linked with the mammography industry, ignores the development of alternatives to mammography and exposes pre-menopausal women to radiation hazards from mammography with little or no evidence of benefits.
Why would the ACS, whose mission is supposed to be preventing and finding a cure for cancer, continue to stand so firmly behind the use of mammograms? Perhaps part of the answer comes from the fact that no fewer than five radiologists have served as ACS presidents. In addition, the mammography industry conducts research for the ACS and its grantees, serves on advisory boards, and donates considerable funds.
For example: DuPont, a leading mammography company as well as a leading producer of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, has been a substantial backer of the ACS Breast Health Awareness Program. DuPont has also sponsored television shows and other media productions touting mammography, produced promotional literature for hospitals, clinics, doctors and medical organizations, produced educational films, and lobbied Congress for legislation promoting the availability of mammography services.
The highly publicized National Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign further illustrates the conflicts of interest between the ACS and the mammography and other cancer industries. Every October, ACS and NCI representatives help sponsor promotional events, hold interviews, and stress the need for mammography. The flagship of this month-long series of events is the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s sponsored National Mammography Day, which takes place on the third Friday in October. On this day and throughout October radiologists provide free or discounted mammogram screening.
While the country is awash in a sea of pink every year, what is conspicuously absent during Breast Cancer Awareness Month is any information on the effects of environment, hormonal deficiency and imbalance, and other avoidable causes of breast cancer. This has not been by accident. Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created by Imperial Chemicals (now AstraZeneca), which happened to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers chemical carcinogens.
AstraZeneca owns a string of Salick Health Care cancer centers in U. S. hospitals. AstraZeneca subsidiary AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals is also the manufacturer of tamoxifen, the world’s top-selling anticancer and breast cancer “prevention” drug.
In the 1990’s, the ACS aggressively launched and promoted a “chemoprevention” program along with the NCI to recruit 16,000 healthy yet supposedly “high risk” women for a 5-year clinical trial with the highly profitable drug tamoxifen. The women were told tamoxifen was essentially harmless and could reduce their risk of breast cancer. They were not told that tamoxifen was a highly potent liver carcinogen in rodent tests or that it was a well-known aggressive human uterine cancer agent that would plunge them into extreme hormonal deficiency and imbalance.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a masterful public relations deception for ACS favorite, AstraZeneca, as well as other sponsors who either profit from cancer or whose products cause cancer. It is masterful in garnering undeserved good will from millions of American women. For an in depth look at the deception involved in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month see:
In the concluding installment in this series we will this series we will take a look at how the ACS has used their power and influence to suppress and attack alternative cancer treatments that might offer safer and less expensive options than the treatments of the ACS favored companies whose profits would be at risk if such alternatives were accepted. We will also examine the actions and funding of the ACS which many consider to be either illegal or highly inappropriate for a non-profit organization.
“The Secret History of the War on Cancer”, Devra Davis, Basic Books/Perseus Books Group, 2007