Agran, Larry. The Cancer Connection: And What We Can Do About It. Boston: Houghton

 

Agran, Larry. The Cancer Connection: And What We Can Do About It. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1977.

If one is willing to grant the assumption that cancer is caused by carcinogens in the environment,
and that only a few of these (arsenic, for example,) are natural and the rest man-made, then one
can do something about this plague, which threatens all of us. The major thesis of this book is
that cancer is a preventable disease. The question becomes, "Why haven't we done more to
prevent it?" The answer is that it is too expensive in the short run to do what is necessary.

Chapter 11, "Dr. William Hueper," (pp. 171-186), is a brief biography of an industrial physician
(once with DuPont) who went to the NIH Bureau where he started reporting on carcinogens to
superiors. The story is simple: every time Hueper tried to do something through official channels,
he got stopped. He did manage to write some very important books on industrial carcinogens and
to keep up his research, but his work is virtually unknown to the public.

There are several other stories in this book indicating the bureaucratic indifference to cancer
prevention. The short story of cigarette advertising is interesting: when TV had to provide
anti-smoking ads (the late 60s), there was evidence that anti-smoking ads were effective. The
tobacco industry thereupon dropped their own ads to kill the anti-smoking ads, thereby
effectively killing the opposition.

The industry has refused to police itself and has resisted legislation protecting the public.
Congress won't act until there is "proof" that cancer is caused by a particular substance. What a
perversion of science! In matters of causation, the demand for conclusive proof is nearly
impossible. The argument that there is no "proof" is a way of invoking "science" as a basis for
doing nothing. "Stripped of its pseudoscientific veneer, the demand for conclusive proof is really
a crude assertion that nothing will be done until the dead bodies are piled so high that there can
no longer be any doubt... The shrill call for proof should be replaced by a common sense plea for
prudence, care, and caution." (pp. 68-69)