Thursday, April 13, 2000
The American Cancer Society is the world''s largest secular charity. It takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year from ordinary Americans who hope their donations will help fight cancer.
Some 60 percent of that money will go to "operating expenses," including generous salaries for ACS executives. Only a quarter will go to medical research or direct care-giving programs.
But ACS is more than a bloated, wasteful bureaucracy. It''s playing an active role in the fight against cancer, and it''s squarely on the side of the makers of carcinogens.
ACS''s approach to cancer is one of damage control. It pushes diagnosis and treatment at all costs, but it refuses to discuss the causes of cancer, or ways we might prevent it. It won''t say a word against the companies that pour toxic chemicals into our food, air, and water. In fact, the ACS has opposed regulations restricting cancer-causing hair dyes, food additives, air pollution, pesticides, breast implants, and medicines.
And the society has done very well by kowtowing. ACS takes in serious money from the mammography, pesticide, and pharmaceutical industries, then advocates policies that make those funders very happy. It pushes young women to get breast exams, although the hazards of radiation from those exams are well-documented and the benefits to premenopausal women are sketchy. It mounted a vigorous defense of the pesticide industry after a documentary on the dangers of pesticides aired on PBS. And it uses its clout to squelch funding requests from researchers studying alternative cancer therapies, thereby protecting the profits of the makers of cancer drugs.
Last year, the Cancer Prevention Coalition called for a boycott of the ACS; thanks to the dearth of media coverage, few people heard about it.
Samuel S. Epstein, "American Cancer Society: The World''s Wealthiest ''Nonprofit'' Institution," International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 29, no. 3, 1999. For more information go to www.preventcancer.com.