President’s Cancer Panel Sets the Stage for Historic Shift in “Conventional Wisdom”

Charles “Chuck” Benbrook, Ph.D. - Chief Scientist, The Organic Center

A key epidemiological study was done in the late 1970s and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1981 by two scientists, Dr's. Doll and Peto. Their research suggested that less than 10% of human cancers were caused by exposures to environmental carcinogens. Their finding suited the bias of many powerful interests, who did everything possible to solidify and sustain this finding as a pillar of “conventional scientific wisdom.” The pillar has stood essentially unchallenged for 30 years.

Now, the new report issued by the President’s Cancer Panel shatters the myth built upon the foundation of Doll and Peto’s work. In the May 6, 2010 “Environmental Health News,” Marla Cone summarizes the 240-page government report just delivered to the President. The key conclusions in the Cancer Panel report include:

  • “The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated...[the President should] use the power of your office to remove carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air...”
  • “The American people – even before they are born – are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.”
  • Consumers should seek out food grown without chemicals, including organic food.

In his May 6, 2010 Op-Ed column in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof begins by saying

“The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies.”

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President’s Cancer Panel 2008–2009 Annual Report
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Charles Benbrook is Chief Scientist for The Organic Center. Since 1979 he has worked on the science of cancer risk assessment and issues of regulatory policy impacting cancer-causing pesticides. bio

Leadership in Action

Chuck Benbrook highlights the Cancer Panel finding that “exposure to chemicals in fact does play a key role in determining who will get cancer”—even among Americans with other risk factors, like smoking, obesity and sun exposure.


"Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers…Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications."

President's Cancer Panel Report, May 2010. “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now.”

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