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---August 24, 1987---
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Most Americans aren't aware of it, but there's a battle raging around the National Cancer Institute (NCI). President Richard Nixon declared "war on cancer" in 1971, but there's scant evidence to show that any substantial progress has been made in that war. The NCI stresses new surgical techniques and new drug therapies to cure cancer, rather than stressing cancer prevention. Their program has brought the following results, according to the Govern ment Accounting Office (an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress):

The U.S. cancer death rate rose from 162.2 deaths per 100,000 population in 1975 to 170.7 in 1984. If we omit lung cancer, the death rate was 125.4 per 100,000 in 1975 and 125.1 in 1984, which is not a large improvement.

The reported incidence of cancer (how many people were reported to have come down with cancer) in 1975 was 330.5 per 100,000 and 351.8 in 1984. Omitting lung cancer, the incidence rate rose from 285.3 per 100,000 in 1975 to 296.5 in 1984.

"Our cancer program is in big trouble," says Dr. John Bailar III, in the School of Public Health at Harvard University. The National Cancer Institute vigorously denies this assertion, but the cancer statistics seem to speak more loudly than the agency's words. Maybe it's time to get serious about a cancer prevention program, reducing human exposure to some of the causes of cancer.

Original sources for this newsletter: U.S. General Accounting Office, CANCER PATIENT SURVIVAL: WHAT PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE? [GAO REPORT PEMD-87-13]. (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accounting Office, 1987); Barbara Culliton, "GAO Report Angers Cancer Officials," SCIENCE Vol. 236 (April 24, 1987), pgs. 380-381; John C. Bailar III, "Cancer Control," SCIENCE Vol. 236 (May 29, 1987), pgs. 1049- 1050; Eleanor Chelimsky, "[Untitled letter to the editor,]" SCIENCE, Vol. 236 (May 29, 1987), pg. 1050.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.

Descriptor terms: cancer; nci; national cancer institute; federal;

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