ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Samuel Epstein was born in England in 1926, graduated as a doctor and
rose to work as a consultant pathologist at major institutions and hospitals at London
University before emigrating to the US in 1960. For ten years he worked at the Children's
Cancer Research Foundation and Harvard in Boston before being awarded a
distinguished professorship at the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve
University at Cleveland. In 1976 he took his current position of Professor
of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the School of Public Health
at the University of Illinois in Chicago where he set up the first laboratories
of toxicology and carcinogenesis in the United States. He has authored or co-authored ten
books and over 250 articles and has received a number of awards from academic and
environmental organisations. He has frequently broadcast on radio and TV
nationally and internationally.
Epstein has emerged as the leading international champion of cancer prevention,
and of winning the war against cancer by preventing avoidable exposures to
environmental carcinogens in air, water, food and the work place.
He has conducted extensive basic and applied research in experimental pathology,
on toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic affects of environmental and occupational
contaminants, with particular reference to industrial petrochemicals. His
scientific publications on the issue of environmental cancer date from the early 1960s,
his first book was "The Mutagenicity of Pesticides" (1971), and his first listed
broadcast, on CBS TV, was in 1969 on the hazards of environmental pollutants. His best-known
book, "The Politics of Cancer" (1978) won the Notable Book and other Awards.
An updated edition was published in October 1998. Epstein has also played
an important role in professional societies, especially of the more activist kind, and
acted as an adviser and legislation-drafter to a number of Congressional committees.
Epstein's most recent surge of activity arose from a major initiative on
February 4th 1992, when 65 eminent doctors and scientists, co-ordinated by Epstein,
released a statement on the 20th anniversary of President Nixon's launch of "the war
against cancer". The statement was headed "Losing the War on Cancer After 20 Years".
It noted an overall increase in cancer incidence since 1950 of 44%, with much
higher increases in some kinds of cancer. The statement blamed this increase unequivocally
on the failure of the government particularly the "cancer establishment"
- the Federal National Cancer Institute (FNCI) and the "philantrophic" - the American
Cancer Society (ACS) to tackle environmental and occupational cancer and to prevent
cancer. This was more important than blaming lifestyles or funding ever
more research into basic science and "cures", which have not significantly increased
five-year survival rates. The statement also called for a number of fundamental reforms at
the NCI and ACS, to align them with a preventative approach.
Out of this initiative was born the Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC),
which is proposing a comprehensive strategy of outreach, education andadvocacy to
establish prevention as the nation's top cancer policy. The longer-term objective
of CPC is to win the war against cancer by reducing modern epidemic cancer rates to
their pre-1940 levels. CPC's Board, of which Epstein is the Chairman, includes
the past Executive Director of Citizen Action, Ira Arhook, the US's largest consumer
and environmental organisation with 3 million members in 33 states, two
cancer-environment organisations and some cancer specialists.
Epstein and the CPC are blunt in their criticism of government bodies,
such as the US Department of Agricultureand the Environmental Protection Agency, for failing
to protect the consumer against harmful foods and chemicals. And they accuse
the NCI and the American Cancer Society of ignoring the scope for preventing the
disease, while misleading the public with claims that they can find cures if they
are given more money. Epstein's book (with David Steinman) "The Breast Cancer Prevention
Program", a second edition of which was published by Macmillan in October
1998. Its very title is a challenge to the NCI, which says that the prevention
of breast cancer is not possible. In March 1998 Epstein set out his critique of the US cancer
establishment in Congressional testimony, as a result of which he was asked
back to help plan hearings by another Committee on reform of the National Cancer
Institute, whose policies, according to Epstein, have "in no small measure been a
critical factor in escalating cancer rates over recent decades".
CPC has developed a variety of educational and advocacy programmes to operate
at both local and national levels. These include: (i) Consumer labelling/Right
to Know; (ii) Citizen Petitions; and (iii) National Policy. Other programmes are being
developed and will deal with avoidable causes of childhood, ovarian and breast cancers.
The "Right to Know" programme is based partly on a book, "The Safe Shoppers'
Bible", co-authored by Epstein, which evaluates some 3,500 consumer products
- food, cosmetics and toiletries and household products - for undisclosed
carcinogenic ingredients and contaminants. The Programme includes meetings
and the distribution of "Cancer Alerts" on common consumer products containing
carcinogens, such as hot dogs and cosmetic talcum powder. In September 1995,
the Cancer Prevention Coalition got wide media publicity when it announced, jointly
with Ralph Nader, a "Dirty Dozen" list of US consumer products containing
carcinogenic or other toxic ingredients by research and providing scientific information to government
regulatory agencies and the public. Two months later they were in the news again with
a study by Epstein concluding that milk from cows injected with recombinantbovine
growth hormone (rBGH) increases the human risk of breast and coloncancers. The
CPC has now published about twenty "Cancer Prevention Alerts" and is also producing
a newsletter. CPC has also started providing information on the Internet.
It has participated in a dozen regional and national conferences on health/cancerissues,
and gives numerous workshops. The "Bible" is to be published in anew edition
in 1999. Epstein notes that "several global industries have since reformulated their
products which are now safer."
The "Citizen Petition" programme takes advantage of US citizens' right
to petition federal agencies to take action, such as labelling or banning a hazardous
product. If the petition meets certain requirements, the agency must comply within
a given period or face legal challenge. CPC has submitted four such petitions to the US
Food and Drug Administration, calling for (a) labels on cosmetic talc towarn about
the risks of ovarian cancer; (b) a ban on lindane-based shampoo to treat children with
head-lice; (c) labels on nitrite-preserved hot-dogs to warn of childhood brain cancer
and leukaemia; and (d) a medical warning of breastcancer risks to be sent to
all women with silicone gel and polyurethane breast implants.
Under the "National Policy" programme, CPC issues Press Releases on key
concerns relating to national policy on cancer prevention. Some of these have been
issued with the endorsement of other national public interest groups, so that they
represent the views of several million citizens. In 1997/98 six press releases were issued,
covering issues which included hormonal beef and milk.
Epstein and CPC have amassed substantial evidence that milk from cows treated
with synthetic growth hormones, and meat from cattle treated with sex hormones,
are carcinogenic. The "Los Angeles Times" ran a Commentary/Editorial from Epstein
on the beef issue in 1997, when he was engaged in giving testimony in support
to the European Commission and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in support of
the EU ban on hormone-treated beef. Epstein also gave evidence to the UK
Parliamentary Agriculture and Health Select Committee against proposals
by the Ministry of Agriculture to allow the use of the hormone, BST, in milk products,
against an EU moratorium. While the WTO initially ruled against the EU, the WTO
appellate ruling reversed this decision and came out in favour of the EU ban. The
CPC publications and testimony were influential both in this decision and in
the EU decision to declare a moratorium on hormonal milk.