Steep Cancer Rise Since 1973




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Moss Reports



This page has two articles: Steep Cancer Rise Since 1973 and Losing the War on Cancer.

Cancer rates are up, particularly for cancers that affect the young

Cancer incidence increased steadily between 1973 and 1996, and probably for longer than that, although the government did not keep track of cancer rates before 1973. The increase was consistent across many types of cancer, from breast cancer, that increased steadily at 1.5 percent per year, to prostate cancer, that skyrocketed at 4.4 percent per year. Overall, cancer incidence in the U.S. rose by 1.1 percent per year during that time, or about 11,000 more cancers per million people each year. For some cancers the increase appears to have leveled off, but for many other cancers, rates continue to rise (NCI 1996, NCI 1997). 

Isn't this just because people are living longer?

No. All of the rates represent the increase after accounting for an aging population.

Isn't the increase just the result of better detection?

For some portion of some cancers better detection explains the increase, but better detection does not account for the overall dramatic increases in cancer incidence that have occurred in the past 30 years
(Ekbom 1998, NCI 1996, NCI 1997).

Childhood cancers on the rise:
In the 20 years from 1975 to 1995, childhood cancer rates rose 20 percent, from 128 cases per million children in 1975 to 154 cases per million in 1995. Between 1992 and 1996, 20 of every 100,000 preschool-age children (four and younger) were diagnosed with cancer, or 200 times the one in a million lifetime risk level at which the federal government attempts to set regulations controlling chemical exposures. (NCI 1996)

Childhood leukemia: 
Leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, increased by about 17% between 1973 and 1996 (from 23 to 27 cases per million children) (EPA 2000).

Childhood brain cancer:
The incidence of brain and other central nervous system tumors in children rose by 26%
between 1973 and 1996 (EPA 2000).

Reproductive cancers on the rise:
Since the chemical industrial revolution of the 1940's and 50's the population has been deluged with chemicals that disrupt normal functioning of the endocrine (hormone) system. Today, the average person born in the United States has 50 or more industrial chemicals in his or her blood that have been shown to disrupt normal functioning of hormones in animal studies. The levels of some of these compounds are similar to the amounts linked to adverse effects in animal studies. Many of these substances have also been shown to cause cancer of the testes, breast, prostate, and other reproductive organs in laboratory animals (Toppari et al 1996, Moline et al 2000, Schettler et al 2000). These chemicals include DDT, PCBs, dioxin, bisphenol-A, and phthalates, to name just a few. It is widely suspected that these compounds are contributing to increases in cancers of the reproductive organs in the human population.

Breast cancer: 
Among girls born today, 1 in 8 are expected to get breast cancer and 1 in 30 are expected to die from it. Invasive female breast cancer increased an average of 1.5 percent per year between 1973 and 1996, for a total increase of 25.3 percent. Among those 65 and younger, breast cancer incidence rose 1.2 percent per year, corresponding to a doubling every 2 generations (58 years). If trends continue, the granddaughters of today's young women could face a 1 in 4 chance of developing breast cancer. (NCI 1996, NCI 1997)

Testicular cancer: 
At its current pace, the incidence of testicular cancer is doubling about every one and a half generations (39 years). In the U.S. the incidence of testicular cancer rose 41.5 percent between 1973 and 1996, an average of 1.8 percent per year (NCI 1996, NCI 1997). While rates of testicular cancer continue to drop among older men (65 and up), younger men are not so lucky. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among young men, disproportionately striking men in their 30's, with the highest rate of diagnosis among those between the ages of 30 and 34.

Prostate cancer: 
Prostate cancer rates rose 4.4 percent a year between 1973 and 1992, or more than a doubling of risk in a generation. Since 1992, the incidence has declined, but it is still 2.5 times the rate in 1973. Part of this increase can be explained by better detection, but increased incidence has also been accompanied by an increase in mortality - which better detection cannot explain. Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer among U.S. men, and the second most lethal, killing an estimated 31,900 men in the year 2000 alone (NCI 1996, NCI 1997).

References :
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2000. America's Children and the Environment. A first view of available measures. EPA 240-R-00-006.
December 2000.

Moline JM, Golden A, Bar-Chama N, Smith E, Rauch M, Chapin R,
Perreault S, Schrader S, Suk W, Landrigan P.
September 2000. Exposure to hazardous substances and male reproductive health: a research framework.
Environmental Health Perspectives. 108(9).

National Cancer Institute (NCI). 1996. SEER Cancer Statistics Review.

National Cancer Institute (NCI). 1996. SEER Cancer Statistics Review.

Schettler T, J Stein, F Reich, M Valenti. 2000.
In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development.
Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility. May 2000.

Toppari J, Larsen JC, Christiansen P, Giwercman A, Grandjean P,
Guillette LJ Jr, Jegou B, Jensen TK, Jouannet P, Keiding N,
Leffers H, McLachlan JA, Meyer O, Muller J, Meyts,
ER-D, Scheike T, Sharpe R, Sumpter J, Skakkebaek NE.
August 1996. Male reproductive health and environmental xenoestrogens.
Environmental Health Perspectives. 104. Supplement 4.

last updated: march.26.2001
The Chemical Industry Archives is a project of the Environmental Working Group.
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Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. Weekly
Newsletter #59 10/30/02

Losing the War on Cancer

For years, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has asserted that cancer incidence in the US is on the decline. But a recent scientific study undercuts this claim. It turns out that various flaws and delays in the way the data were reported to the US government created a false impression that progress was being made. In fact, American cancer rates have been rising, not falling, for the most common kinds of cancer.

The reversal of the NCI's erroneous statistics does not come from the medical fringe. It appears in a recent issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) itself, written by scientists at the NCI's own Biometry Research Group. It is a reversal with important political implications for the struggling "war on cancer."

The Right Track?

In December 1971, President Nixon launched America's "war on cancer," putting billions of dollars of resources behind a fight to control this dread disease. One obvious measure of progress has been the rate at which cancer afflicts the general population. If the incidence of cancer is rising, then something is obviously wrong with the strategy. If it goes down, however, it implies that effective measures are being implemented for cancer prevention.

For years the public has been in a peculiar situation. On the one hand, most people with whom I speak express the conviction that cancer is increasing in frequency among their friends, families and neighbors. On the other hand, almost all medical authorities have reassured us that cancer incidence is in fact declining.

In March 1998, the NCI, American Cancer Society (ACS), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) united to issue an unprecedented joint statement, the so-called "Cancer Report Card." This stated:

"Cancer incidence and death rates for all cancers combined and for most of the top 10 cancer sites declined between 1990 and 1995, reversing an almost 20-year trend of increasing cancer cases and deaths in the United States."

The directors of the three agencies exulted in the seeming progress. "These numbers are the best proof that we're on the right track," said Richard Klausner, MD, then the director of the NCI.

**Please view picture of the author with Dr. Klausner on 6/24/98 at:

"We must seize the opportunity to build, and build significantly, on this trend," added John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.

The implications of these findings were vast. The downturn in cancer incidence was taken as a complete vindication of the government's approach, and, by some, as a refutation of the claims of alternative medicine. After all, if the conventional approach was working, some argued, who needs alternatives?

Elizabeth Whelan, ScD, MPH, a frequent critic of alternative medicine, wrote along these lines in an article on the Quackwatch website. In her words:

"The false claim that cancer rates are rising is a favorite of quackery promoters who want to undermine public trust in food companies, drug companies, chemical manufacturers, and the medical profession." Naturally, she drew on the 1998 "Cancer Report Card" as proof that "the incidence and overall death rates from cancer have been declining in the
United States."

Not Winning the War

Yet according to an excellent recent article by Sharon Begley of the Wall Street Journal, "America isn't winning the war on cancer after all. Contrary to optimistic reports from the National Cancer Institute showing the incidence of several devastating cancers has leveled off or even declined in recent years, rates for at least some of those cancers have been rising, according to a new analysis by NCI scientists."

Begley added, "More accurate information about cancer rates presents a grimmer picture." She called the revised NCI estimates "a dispiriting picture of the nation's progress in preventing cancer."

Cancer on the Rise

In their reanalysis, the authors of the NCI study reviewed delays and errors in reporting for five common types of cancer. They found that rates of breast cancer among white women, which we were told had remained stable since 1987, actually have been rising by a substantial 0.6 percent per year. The NCI scientists called for more research "to explain the cause for the recent rise in breast cancer incidence."

Lung cancer incidence in women was also purported to be flat, but in actuality it too has been rising, by 1.2 percent a year, since 1996. Melanoma rates in white men were said to be steady or even falling. But now we learn that they have been increasing by a formidable 4.1 percent a year since 1981. Similarly, prostate cancer rates in white men, rather than falling, as we were previously assured, have also been rising by 2.2 percent a year.

"For white men, 1998 prostate cancer rates are actually 12 percent higher than originally reported," wrote Begley, while "for black men they are 14 percent higher." The rate of colon and rectal cancer in white women has been rising 2.8 percent annually since 1996, rather than, as originally calculated, less than 1 percent per year.

Muted Response

When the 1998 "Cancer Report Card" was issued, it was publicized throughout the world by a compliant media. Yet in contrast to the universal hoopla that greeted the release of the 1998 findings, the response to this astonishing new study has been muted.

"Maybe we were a little too eager to declare the effectiveness of our intervention and prevention programs," said the NCI's Brenda Edwards.

"This tells us something we didn't know about whether our intervention and prevention programs are working," said a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. True: it tells us that the interventions are not working!

Two weeks after the study was published in JNCI, I can still find no mention of it at, the NCI's website. Nor could I find any mention of this publication at the websites of Reuters, ABC News, the New York Times, or even, which monitors 4,000 separate news sources. I find it galling that the Pollyanna-like optimism of 1998 was swallowed whole by the media, while the corrective dose of realism has gone unmentioned. Why do I get the feeling that "the powers that be" like it that way?

--Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.



Losing the War on Cancer

Begley S. New statistics show increase in cancer rates. The
Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2002, p. B1.

Clegg LX et al. Impact of reporting delay and reporting
error on cancer incidence rates and trends. J Natl Cancer
Inst 2002;94:1537-45.

Howe HL et al. Annual report to the nation on the status of
cancer (1973 through 1998), featuring cancers with recent
increasing trends. J Natl Cancer Inst 2001;93:824-42.

New report on declining cancer incidence and death rates;
report shows progress in controlling cancer. [March 12, 1998
joint statement]

Whelan EM. Quackery promoters are wrong.



The news and other items in this newsletter are
intended for informational purposes only. Nothing in
this newsletter is intended to be a substitute for
professional medical advice.




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