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"Prudence and prevention, not panic."

Monday, November 5, 2007

child_ct_scan.jpg So I've been reading Dr. Devra Davis' new book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer. It's a remarkable book, incredibly detailed and full of information I can almost guarantee you've never seen before. It makes a very compelling case.

But how, I found myself wondering, would I tell people about it? There's so much information packed in there that I couldn't imagine trying to pick examples to explain during, say, a quick lunch with a friend.

The Washington Post was kind enough to solve that problem for me this weekend. Their Sunday edition contained an op-ed from Dr. Davis in which she does all the work of choosing examples and summarizing her argument. To whit:

True, there are many uncertainties about environmental cancer hazards. But these doubts should not be confused with proof that environmental factors are harmless. The confusion arises for three different reasons. First, studying the ways that our surroundings affect our cancers is genuinely hard. Second, public and private funding levels for research and control of environmental cancer are scandalously low. Finally, those who profit from the continued use of some risky technologies have devised well-financed efforts to sow doubt about many modern hazards, taking their cue from the machinations of the tobacco industry. The best crafted public relations campaigns masquerade as independent scientific information from unimpeachable authorities.

Cell phones, CT scans, bubble bath -- all appear to carry some cancer risk. How much? Hard to say. The war on cancer has been off-target for years and, as Dr. Davis says, it's time for "prudence and prevention."