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The Secret History of the War on Cancer    by Devra Davis order for
Secret History of the War on Cancer
by Devra Davis
Order:  USA  Can
Perseus, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

In 1971, President Nixon declared a very public war on cancer. But few know of the secret cancer war and the acts of heinous duplicity that author Devra Davis estimates led to more than a million preventable cancer deaths. 'The democratic tendencies of modern science have always been muted by economic and political forces that determine who gets to know what, where and when,' says Davis, author of The Secret History of the War on Cancer.

Some examples: In 1928 researcher George Papanicolaou created the Pap smear, proven to prevent cervical cancer; but doctors refused to perform it for more than a decade because it would decrease the number of surgeries and undermine the private practice of medicine. Leaders of the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute left their positions to work for the tobacco industry, eager to manufacture doubt about the dangers of tobacco. Anticipating the ban of deadly vinyl chloride gas in hairspray in the 1970's, Clairol manufactured a year's supply in one month to keep millions of cans on store shelves and in people's homes following the ban.

Government and industry leaders used familiar methods that have served them well for decades: create doubt, claim proprietary trade secrets, stage character assassinations, manipulate public perception, and intimidate. These strategies have quashed dissent and criticism, destroyed careers, kept workers unprotected, and blocked victim compensation, as Davis shows in her cogent and fearless expose.

Davis (also the author of When Smoke Ran Like Water, a National Book Award finalist) is a world renowned environmentalist, epidemiologist, and author. She is director and founder of the world's first Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The abundant documentation in The Secret History of the War on Cancer - much of it obtained from industry's own secret archives - substantiates that millions of cancers from tobacco, asbestos, PVC manufacture, dioxin, estrogen-laced personal care products, and hundreds of other known carcinogens were preventable. Davis proves that scientific evidence of harm was there, and both industry and government leaders knew it. She goes on to reveal what's known today about cell phones, diagnostic radiation exposure, aspartame and Ritalin, as well as industry and governmental efforts to suppress and distort the evidence. No one can afford to ignore this book.

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