Presidential Cancer Panel Drops Anti-Science Bomb!

Via Reuters:

Americans “bombarded” with cancer sources: report
Americans are being “bombarded” with cancer-causing chemicals and radiation and the federal government must do far more to protect them, presidential cancer advisers said on Thursday.

Although most experts agree that as many as two-thirds of cancer cases are caused by lifestyle choices like smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise, the two-member panel said many avoidable cancers were also caused by pollution, radon gas from the soil and medical imaging scans.

“The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons,” wrote the two panel members, Dr. LaSalle Leffall, professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington and Margaret Kripke, an emeritus professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Cancer is the No. 2 killer of Americans, after heart disease. Kripke and Leffall, both appointed by President George W. Bush, decided in 2008 to focus a report on potential environmental links to cancer.

“The American people — even before they are born — are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures,” they wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama at top of the report.

“The panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase healthcare costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

A White House spokesman indicated he had not yet seen the report and the National Cancer Institute declined comment.


The report, available at, offered some of its own advice to consumers.

For instance, the report said that although large studies have found no links between cell phone use and cancer, people would be prudent to wear headsets and make calls quickly.

I have to say that this is one of the worst federally sanctioned science reports I have ever seen. The panel in question was made up of only two individuals, which hardly constitutes a panel. The panel is also not entirely an Obama creation, it actually was formed by George W. Bush. President Obama could have appointed more to the panel but didn’t. At this point all I can say to President Obama is that he should repudiate this report and disavow any relation to the panel.

The most blatant item in the report is radiation, both ionizing and non-ionizing. The panel, which seems to believe cancer is coming from environmental causes not only upholds the LNT model of cancer, but seems to believe that there is some kind of radiation crisis in the US that is killing people in droves. Worse still, the grouping of RF radiation with ionizing radiation is inexcusable, as is the claim that there needs to be some kind of presumption that RF radiation is related to cancer. For such statements to be made by such a governmental panel is inexcusable and revolting.

The American Cancer Society and numerous other groups fired back at these statements:

The American Cancer Society said the report downplayed known risks that cause most cases of cancer including tobacco, obesity, alcohol, infections, hormones and sunlight.

“The report is most provocative when it restates hypotheses as if they were established facts,” the society’s Dr. Michael Thun said in a statement.

“For example, its conclusion that ‘the true burden of environmentally (pollution) induced cancer has been grossly underestimated’ does not represent scientific consensus.”

Not surprisingly this grotesque report has already been received with open arms from naturpaths and various other quacks.  To them, the idea that cancer is caused by toxins is the cornerstone of their scams.  Others have used this report, which also mentions things like synthetic fertilizers, to claim organic food will reduce cancer risks, even though there is no scientific evidence of this.   Environmental extremists and other fly-by-night groups are latching onto this like a flies to a big steaming pile of bullshit. (excuse my language)

One of the worst aspects of this kind of nonsense is that it gives ammunition to those who want to sell snake-oil like “radiation protectors” or “detoxification procedures” by providing them a kind of legitimacy in the form of government sanctioned misinformation.   It can also have dire impacts on the potential for frivolous lawsuits and unnecessary restrictions on harmless products.    Already this kind of scaremongering has lead to proposals for warning labels on cell phones, despite no scientific evidence of dangers.   Generally pushed in the name of “precautionary principle” and more often than not to “protect the children” these kind of frivolous warnings only serve to undermine the authority of health officials to warn of substances that actually do cause harm.

More from Reuters:

For instance, the report said that although large studies have found no links between cell phone use and cancer, people would be prudent to wear headsets and make calls quickly.

The report delighted environmental groups that have been pressing for more regulation of chemicals. “It is very gratifying to see this remarkable report that addresses those concerns,” said Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute.

“The 40-year war on cancer has been called for what it is … a failure,” Jeanne Rizzo, president and chief executive of the Breast Cancer Fund, which advocates about links between chemicals and breast cancer, told reporters in a telephone briefing.

New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg said he hoped the report would help boost support for a bill requiring closer regulation of chemicals.

“My Safe Chemicals Act will require testing of all chemicals, and take substances off the market if the manufacturer cannot prove they are safe,” he said.

Great. “Prove they are safe.” Well you can’t prove anything if you keep moving the standards for what “proof” is.

I’ve got some news for the quacks and anti-technology activists who have latched onto this report: Cancer happens, and more often than not there’s no attributable environmental cause. Cancer can occur because of corrupt genes that have laid dormant for most of someone’s life or it can happen due to a mutation caused by a random copy error in DNA that occurred during cell division. It may happen because of a rogue cosmic ray or an oxygen free-radical or due to a broken enzyme or just aging of cells. More often than not there’s no direct cause that cancer can be attributed to.

Let me also remind everyone of something: you will die. Something is going to kill you. If you manage to avoid heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease for long enough, you’ll probably die of cancer. If you do manage to avoid cancer for long enough, you’ll eventually die when your heart or one of your other vital organs suffers a catastrophic failure. Any way you cut it, something can and will kill you.

Has the war on cancer been a failure? We still don’t have a 100% effective cure for cancer and probably never will, because cancer is not a condition but a whole spectrum of conditions. What we do have, however, is better survival rates than ever before. Today a child diagnosed with lymphoma or leukemia has a better than 50% chance of beating the cancer and living a generally healthy life. That was not the case 40 years ago.

Age adjusted cancer rates for men and women.
The increase seen in lung cancer is directly attributable to tobacco smoking levels.

That is not to say that there are not some environmental causes of cancer. While most cancers strike more or less at random, there are some well established environmental factors. These include the following:

Tobacco Smoking (the single largest, by far)
Chewing Tobacco
Heavy alcohol consumption (primarily liver cancer)
Ultraviolet radiation (such as from sunbathing or tanning beds)
Ionizing radiation (when very high exposure or extended high levels of exposure are present)
Lead (extended exposure especially to organo-lead compounds)
Human papillomavirus
Certain organochloride compounds
Sooty exhaust from combustion of coal and hydrocarbons

So are we really in grave danger of being exposed to these kind of carcinogens?   Certainly some, such as tobacco use, alcohol and tanning are more of a personal choice than anything else.  Although today, there is more information than ever before to allow individuals to make an informed decision as to whether to tan, smoke or drink heavily.  As for other sources of environmental toxins, including carcinogens, things are not nearly as bad as some might make it out to be.