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The Secret History of the War on Cancer

Overview


Why has the “War on Cancer” languished, focusing mainly on finding and treating the disease and downplaying the need to control and combat cancer’s basic causes—tobacco, the workplace, radiation, and the general environment? This war has targeted the wrong enemies with the wrong weapons, failing to address well-known cancer causes.

As epidemiologist Devra Davis shows in this superbly researched exposé, this is no accident. The War on Cancer has followed the commercial interests...

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The Secret History of the War on Cancer

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Overview


Why has the “War on Cancer” languished, focusing mainly on finding and treating the disease and downplaying the need to control and combat cancer’s basic causes—tobacco, the workplace, radiation, and the general environment? This war has targeted the wrong enemies with the wrong weapons, failing to address well-known cancer causes.

As epidemiologist Devra Davis shows in this superbly researched exposé, this is no accident. The War on Cancer has followed the commercial interests of industries that generated a host of cancer-causing materials and products. This is the gripping story of a major public health effort diverted and distorted for private gain that is being reclaimed through efforts to green health care and the environment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Washington Post
“…Davis put it together in a way that illuminates the underbelly of medical research."

O magazine
"In her devastating, 20-years-in-the-making expose...Devra Davis... shows how cancer researchers, bankrolled by petrochemical and pharmaceutical companies, among others, collude in 'the science of doubt promotion.'...Davis diagnoses two of the most lethal diseases of modern society: secrecy and self-interest. This book is a dramatic plea for a cure."

Discover
“Davis’s new book, THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE WAR ON CANCER, is a wake-up call for all those who have accepted the poisons of our age of plenty without a blink.”

Lancet Oncology
“A feisty and highly accessible writer, Davis lays her cards on the table…a rattling good read and raises vital issues that remain relevant today.”

Booklist starred review
“…several big ACS [American Cancer Society] contributors, are heavily invested in keeping the public from becoming fully informed of the risks of myriad chemicals to which we and our children are exposed…Money, it seems, trumps all. Treatment and cures are hefty profit generators, and it’s expensive to change or eliminate the use of potentially toxic chemicals…Kudos to Davis for stepping up to the plate.”

The Times (Higher Education Supplement)
The Secret History of the War on Cancer reflects the complex interaction of science, politics and society in the 20th century. I am left wondering how it will change in the 21st.”

Toronto Globe & Mail
“…easily the most important science book of the year…Each and every chapter in this book offers an uncomfortable revelation.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Davis is excellent at following the money and fearless about naming names…With this work, Devra Davis has permanently reframed the ‘war.’ It should be required reading for those with cancer histories in their families. In other words, just about all of us.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer / Best 20 Books of 2007
“This searing book from a University of Pittsburgh epidemiologist lays out 35 years of medical greed and cowardice that left millions of Americans vulnerable to environmental and occupational cancer deaths. Countless political books attempt to influence the electorate, but this one stands out from the pack, demonstrating why money changes everything.”

New York Law Journal
“…compelling and well-written text moves from past to present to assess scores of contemporary workplace and lifestyle hazards, from cell phones to household cleansers to diet soft drinks, and makes clear that the law has been useless in protecting our health.”

New York Review of Books
“Joining this increasingly fractious debate with devastating force, Devra Davis, director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, claims that the war “has been fighting many of the wrong battles with the wrong weapons and the wrong leaders.” She calculates that these “fundamental misdirections” have thrown away well over a million American lives. Her aim in The Secret History of the War on Cancer is to deliver nothing less than a “reckoning” of this terrible toll.”

Library Journal
“…Davis writes with passion, driven by the conviction that premature deaths among her family members resulted from exposure to industrial toxins…a powerful call to action.”

Kirkus Reviews
“…a detailed history of workplace and environmental carcinogens that predates Nixon's "war" on cancer in the '70s. … fascinating reading as Davis reviews the tobacco story and describes conditions in steel mills, copper smelters, chemical factories and plastics plants, where workers are exposed to insidious and lethal solvents and agents such as asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde and dioxin. She also immortalizes the many poor people in small towns next to waste dumps or downstream from hugely polluted rivers who died from cancer or whose children suffered birth defects. In almost every case, the offending corporation lied, denied, delayed or bought-off complaints, recruiting the best legal talent and, sad to say, even highly respected scientists.”

LJExpress.com
“Davis writes with passion, driven by the conviction that premature deaths among her family members resulted from exposure to industrial toxins… The Secret History is a powerful call to action; recommended for most libraries.”

Lisa Heinzerling, Georgetown University Law Center, and author of Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing
“Devra Davis has written a brave and brilliant book. It is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered why we’ve spent so much more effort treating cancer than preventing it.”

David O. Carpenter, M.D., Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, State University of New York at Albany
The Secret History of the War on Cancer should be read by everyone who believes that our governments have done an effective job of promoting our health.”

David Servan-Schreiber, author of The Instinct to Heal
“Devra Lee Davis writes with clarity, passion and unassailable precision. This book is fascinating blend of history, science, politics and medicine that reads like a novel.”

Lorenzo Tomatis, MD, Former Director, International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization
“With the mastery of a great writer Devra Davis takes the reader inside the successes, the failures, and the ambiguity of research on cancer.”

Teresa Heinz Kerry, co-author of This Moment on Earth
"A breathtaking, impeccably documented wake-up call for what we should have done and what we must do!”

Mitchell Gaynor, MD, President, Gaynor Integrative Oncology
The Secret History of the War on Cancer is a masterful combination of scientific insights and investigative journalism. If you want to know why one in three Americans develops cancer, read this book.”

Nature
“A well-documented, prosecutorial account of the dark side of cancer-control politics…merits attention.”

David Oshinsky
While much of this may sound familiar to a moderately informed reader, Davis puts it together in a way that illuminates the underbelly of medical research…the best watchdogs are often the most obsessive, using shock and alarm as a prelude to discussion. And for many readers of The Secret History of the War on Cancer, I suspect, Devra Davis is a natural for this role.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
Cancer remains such a prolific killer, says the author, because the medical community focuses on treatment rather than prevention of the root causes. Davis (When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution, 2002, etc.), an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at University of Pittsburgh's Cancer Institute, offers a detailed history of workplace and environmental carcinogens that predates Nixon's "war" on cancer in the '70s. She reminds us of Sir Percival Pott's observations of scrotal cancers in English chimney sweeps, the radiation-induced cancers that followed the discovery of X-rays, the Curies' work with radium and, less well-known, the research of Nazi scientists who linked tobacco to cancer and led officials to discourage Germans from smoking during World War II. The German scientists were pioneers in the new field of epidemiology, which even today is denigrated by some since it involves methods like surveys (unreliable) and statistics (suspect). Much of the text makes for grim but fascinating reading as Davis reviews the tobacco story and describes conditions in steel mills, copper smelters, chemical factories and plastics plants, where workers are exposed to insidious and lethal solvents and agents such as asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde and dioxin. She also immortalizes the many poor people in small towns next to waste dumps or downstream from hugely polluted rivers who died from cancer or whose children suffered birth defects. In almost every case, the offending corporation lied, denied, delayed or bought-off complaints, recruiting the best legal talent and, sad to say, even highly respected scientists.Rather than engage in what has been a fruitless battle of litigation, vengeance and counterproductive legislation, Davis proposes a kind of truth-and-reconciliation approach to get industry and public-health experts mutually involved. But she notes that, unfortunately, it's simply not happening fast enough, and she goes on to raise her own concerns about cell phones, Ritalin and aspartame. One can hope, however, that Davis's book will assure that proper attention is paid.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465015689
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/23/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 982,995
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Devra Davis

Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, directs Pittsburgh’s Center for Environmental Oncology and is Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Contributor to the Nobel Peace Prize of 2007, she was founding director of the Board on Environmental Studies at the National Academy of Science and presidential appointee to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. She is the acclaimed author of When Smoke Ran Like Water, Finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Washington, D.C., and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

www.DevraDavis.com

Good To Know

Davis was fired from her first job as a summer camp counselor in New England. Recalls Davis, "I had taught the campers 'marching' songs, some of which I had learned from my drill sergeant father, like 'Dirty Lil' and 'Sound Off' and others which were anti-war ditties, such as 'I Ain't a Marching Anymore,' and 'The Cat Came Back.' I got canned because the camp director made me out to be someone who would not always fall in line. Who knew?"

Davis on her family ties: "I am very proud of my big-talking, big-walking siblings and my own grand, noisy Langer, Davis, Morgenstern, Tuckfelt, Goldenberg family, where, as in Garrison Keillor's famous town, all the children are above average, all the women are strong and all the men are good looking. My daughter Lea just graduated from Oberlin College with a double major in the two things you are not supposed to argue about in polite company -- Politics and Religion -- and is teaching in a very modern Orthodox Jewish pre-school in Northern California that includes several gay parents. My son, Aaron, is a former United States Marine and is en route to becoming a real chef, so he is both strong and secure. My husband, Richard Morgenstern, regularly traipses around Asia getting governments to reduce their use of filthy, sickening fuels. The entire lot of us likes to work just a bit outside the box."

According to Davis, "The town I grew up in was famous in the way that Jack the Ripper and the Son of Sam were famous, so of course nobody ever talked about it. Only when I went away to college did I ever hear that a town called Donora had been badly polluted. I was really shocked and believed that there just had to be another Donora somewhere. There was not."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Devra Lee Davis
    2. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C. and Jackson, Wyoming
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 7, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.S., M.A., University of Pittsburgh, 1967; Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1972; M.P.H., Johns Hopkins University, 1982

Table of Contents

Preface

1 The Secret History 3

2 Natural and Other Experiments 17

3 A Broad Enough Principle 45

4 Phantom Collaborators 73

5 Fear Sells 107

6 Making Goods out of Bads 141

7 Saving Cigarettes 169

8 The Good War 199

9 Cancer Doctoring 223

10 Deconstructing Cancer Statistics

11 Doctoring Evidence 267

12 The Harshest of Schoolmasters

13 No Safe Place 329

14 Chasing Tales 363

15 Presumed Innocent 391

Epilogue: Mother's Last 437

Afterword: Bad Dreams 455

Notes 479

Index 513

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    The primary cause of cancer is incorrect human environmental con

    The primary cause of cancer is incorrect human environmental conditions

    Devra Davis has done a wonderful job of documenting the known causes of cancer and the extensive web of corporate and government deceit in this area. She states "Most people have no idea that OSHA is a ghost and has been so for years". Having had my health damaged by a large utility solar photovoltaic system in 2009 and interacted with the OSHA system regarding it, I have to support her statement. I was glad to see that electromagnetic fields (EMF) are mentioned and concerns raised regarding the cellular mobile telephone industry. I live in a community that has both cell phone towers and transmitting utility meters and they are extensively affecting the growth of my plants in the garden and inside the home. It is in line with the fatigue and buzzing “microwave” hearing that I display. Is cancer the next step for me? All of this is currently being ignored by the government while Autism has been following the rise of cell phones and cellular towers for the past decade in the USA. Did you know that wireless radiation can act like a growth hormone? I left the workplace in 2011 and that has coincided with regaining a level of health that is comparable to my teenage years. There are no doubts that for many people their workplaces are toxic and that it is affecting their health to the point of inducing cancer into them. This book does a good job of showing you some of the known cancer causing agents that you should be wary of both in the home and workplace environments. It also discusses some of the known cancer causing towns and cities that you should avoid living in. Highly recommended!

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