Cancer Wars: How Politics Shapes What We Know and Don't Know About Cancer

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BasicBooks, 1995 - Medical - 356 pages
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Cancer Wars explains why we still don't have straight answers to questions such as these: Why do rates from some cancers appear to have risen and others fallen? What are the relative risks of polluted water, radon in homes, and the natural toxins in peanut butter? Is it dangerous to use a cellular phone or to live near high-voltage wires? Are there "thresholds" of exposure to radiation or chemical toxins? If cigarettes cause up to 30 percent of all cancer, why has so little been done to discourage their production? And why does the National Cancer Institute spend only 3 percent of its budget on antitobacco efforts? After an overview of the history of attempts to understand cancer, the book introduces two of the foremost twentieth-century advocates of the environmental view of cancer: the little-known Wilhelm Hueper and his famous disciple, Rachel Carson. Proctor then moves to the 1970s, when claims that a large percentage of cancers could be caused by exposure to industrial pollutants gained currency, and then to the backlash during the Reagan era, when environmental and occupational health factors were downplayed. Proctor discusses the lobbying efforts of industrial research bodies and trade associations representing tobacco, asbestos, meat, coffee, and other special interest groups. He considers the debate over Bruce Ames's argument that "natural carcinogens" in foods pose a far greater threat than industrial pollutants or pesticides, and chronicles the political history of dose-response curves: Can a single molecule of a carcinogen cause cancer? A fascinating chapter on the history of radiation and cancer draws on censored information about uranium-mine concentration camps inCzechoslovakia. The author also discusses genetic factors and differential susceptibility to cancer. Finally, Proctor suggests how we might actually win the war on cancer.

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Cancer wars: how politics shapes what we know and don't know about cancer

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Science historian Proctor discusses not only the war fought against cancer but especially the several wars fought over cancer. He notes several prominent, disturbing facts: despite 20 or more years of ... Read full review

Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
1
A Disease of Civilization? 1
16
The Environmentalist Thesis
35
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

Robert N. Proctor is Professor of the History of Science at Stanford University. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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