Release Date: May 08, 2003

The Public Remains Uninformed of the Escalating Incidence of Childhood Cancer and Its Avoidable Causes

: The Public Remains Uninformed of the Escalating Incidence of Childhood Cancer and Its Avoidable Causes

Chicago, IL  60612  May 8, 2003

From 1975 to 2000, the incidence of childhood cancer has escalated to alarming proportions warns the Cancer Prevention Coalition's new report, "The Stop Cancer Before It Starts Campaign." Childhood cancers have increased by 32% overall: acute lymphocytic leukemia, 57%; brain cancer, 50%; kidney cancer, 48%; and bone cancer, 29%. Childhood cancer is their number one killer, second only to accidents.

The federal National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have failed to inform the public of the increasing incidence of childhood cancer. Furthermore, the NCI claims that: "The causes of childhood cancers are largely unknown." This is contrary to substantial scientific evidence on their avoidable causes, the wide range of carcinogens to which fetuses, infants, and children are exposed, and their much greater vulnerability than adults. Additionally, most carcinogens cause other toxic effects-hormonal or endocrine disruptive, neurological, and immunological.

Avoidable carcinogenic exposures of the fetus, infants, and children fall into three categories:
1. Environmental and Occupational
Pesticides: contaminants in drinking water; urban spraying; uses in schools, including wood playground sets treated with chromated copper arsenate
Petrochemical and other industrial pollutants: atmospheric emissions; contaminants in drinking water
Combustion pollutants: power plants; incinerator stacks; diesel exhaust
Radioactive pollutants: atmospheric emissions from nuclear energy plants; contaminants in drinking water
Occupational carcinogens: parental exposures during pregnancy
2. Domestic/Household
Pesticides: uses in the home, lawn and pet flea collars; contaminants in non-organic food
Ingredients and contaminants in lotions and shampoos
Residence near: hazardous waste sites; chemical and power plants; municipal incinerators
3. Medical
Radiation: diagnostic X-rays in late pregnancy; high-dose radiation CAT scans of infants and children
Pediatric prescription drugs: Lindane shampoos; Ritalin, for treatment of attention deficit disorder
Drugs prescribed during pregnancy: the estrogenic DES; the anti-epileptic Dilantin

NCI's silence on such causes of childhood cancer violates the charge of the 1971 National Cancer Act, launching President Nixon's War Against Cancer, "to disseminate cancer information to the public." This silence is also contrary to NCI's 1998 Congressional testimony that it had developed a public registry of avoidable carcinogens. Not surprisingly, the media remain as uninformed as the public. An April 1, 2003 New York Times article, "Success Stories Abound in Efforts to Prevent and Control Cancer," stated that while amazing progress has been made in treating childhood cancers, "their causes remain a mystery."

Besides the NCI and ACS silence on avoidable causes of childhood cancer, they have failed to provide scientific guidance to regulatory agencies, as reflected in their inconsistent and questionable policies. This is illustrated in the well-intentioned current proposal of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new guidelines for regulating risks "from Early-Life Exposure to Carcinogens." These proposals, however, are based on attempting to quantify risks from individual carcinogens in air and water, without any recognition of their unpredictable additive or multiplicative effects. These proposals also ignore additional risks from a wide range of other carcinogens, such as those in food and cosmetics, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and such as household products including pesticides, regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Furthermore, EPA's proposals are flawed by unscientific assumptions, such as that safe levels of exposure to carcinogens can be theoretically quantified, and that risks based on evidence from rodent tests should be downgraded unless their mechanism of action can be shown to be the same as in humans.

The minimal priorities of the NCI and ACS for research and providing the public with information on avoidable causes of childhood cancers reflect imbalanced policies, and not lack of resources. NCI's annual budget has increased some 30-fold, from $220 million to $4.6 billion, since passage of the 1971 National Cancer Act. NCI expenditures on prevention of avoidable causes of cancer have been estimated as under 4% of its budget, while ACS has allocated less than 1% of its $800 million revenues, apart from $1 billion reserves, to "environmental carcinogenesis."

Clearly, the time for open public debate, and Congressional oversight of national cancer policy is long overdue.

For further details, see the February 2003 "Stop Cancer Before It Starts Campaign" report at; the report has been endorsed by over 100 scientific experts in cancer prevention, and representatives of environmental, consumer, and other activist groups.

CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition, and Professor emeritus Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, 312-996-2297;


Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. (
Cancer Prevention Coalition
UIC School of Public Health
Chicago, IL  60612
Phone : 312-996-2297
Fax : 312-413-9898

Cancer Prevention Coalition

Shelley Kramer, Los Angeles Local Chapter Director of the

Cancer Prevention Coalition