Questioning the logic of cancer panel conclusions

By Richard Keller, editor


If we eliminate all manufactured products in our life, we'll eliminate human cancer, except for a few genetically induced cancers. Two esteemed doctors seem positive of this.

"Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety," according to the recently released 2008-09 annual report of the President's Cancer Panel. This year's report was titled "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, What We Can Do Now." All manufactured products, in one way or another, can possibly contribute to causing cancer, say the panel of two doctors.
 
The full report was formulated by two doctors who are off base, in my way of thinking. The 240-page report was compiled by Suzanne Reuben for Dr. LaSalle Leffall, Jr., professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine, and Dr. Margaret Kripke, University of Texas professor emerita and a doctor with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Both doctors were appointed by President George W. Bush; the third seat on the panel is vacant.
 
The doctors condemn exposure to basically everything that humans in developed countries come into contact with and classify them by hazard source — industrial and manufacturing, medicine and medical procedures, military contaminants, the natural environment and agricultural production. Of course, the report condemns conventional crop production using pesticides and fertilizers.

The Fertilizer Institute says the fertilizer industry was wronged by suggesting any form of fertilizers might play a role in human cancer. What the institute failed to realize is that these activist doctors see potential cancer agents in every chemical compound ever invented.   
 
The two doctors basically contend there is nothing good about modern technology because we cannot prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that any chemicals are safe for use. And the doctors find problems with naturally occurring chemicals such as fertilizers and inert non-registered chemicals, too. 
 
The doctors contend that current scientifically accepted chemical testing is not adequate to deter-mine a chemical's potential for causing cancer. What these doctors want are studies of chemicals' effects at extremely low doses over years, but eliminating outside influences over years is impossible. Additionally, they want chemical interactions studied; but interaction of all the possible combinations of 80,000 chemicals is astronomical and completely impossible.
 
Scaring people concerning their food sources is a big section of the report. The "Exposure to Contaminants from Agricultural Sources" begins with an ominous statement. "The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which also are used in residential and commercial landscaping." I question at what level is that exposure — one molecule per trillion molecules?
 
The two authors quote other activist doctors, and a prime example is a quote against all conven-tional agriculture's use of pesticides made by Sandra Steingraber, Ithaca College. "They [pesticides] are now in amniotic fluid. They're in our blood. They're in our urine. They're in our exhaled breath. They are in mothers' milk ... What is the burden of cancer that we can attribute to this use of poisons in agricultural systems?...We won't really know the answer until we do the other experiment, which is to take the poisons out of our food chain, embrace a different kind of agriculture, and see what happens."
 
The doctors suggest an immediate, illogical and radical step of having the entire U.S. population eat "food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers." These doctors are more than a little out of touch with reality.