by: Tony Isaacs
(SilverBulletin) The American Cancer Society has been called "the world's wealthiest non-profit" due to the tremendous amount of money it raises every year, its huge cash reserves, land holdings and other assets, and salaries that range to above a million dollars for top executives as well as company automobiles and generous benefits packages.
Others have openly questioned whether the ACS serves those it has ties to more than it does the public it has pledged to serve. Due to its vast wealth as well as questionable actions such as donating to political campaigns, some have even called for the elimination of the ACS non-profit status.
Although the history of the ACS's unresponsiveness and questionable actions has become a long and damning one, such was not always the case. The ACS was not always the "800 pound gorilla" of charities with questionable ties to industries that caused and profited from cancer. Instead, the ACS traces its humble beginnings to the formation of the American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC) by a group of gynecologists in 1913. The ASCC began with a simple goal: persuade physicians to learn how to look at the cervix and persuade women to allow regular exams.
Also unlike today's ACS, the early ASCC recognized the impact of environmental causes of cancer. In a report in Time magazine in 1937, ASCC head Clarence Cook Little stated:
"Investigators have at last got a glimmering of what causes cancer. Some people inherit a susceptibility to the disease. But they do not develop cancer unless some susceptible part of the body is unduly irritated by 1) carcinogenic chemicals, 2) physical agents (X-rays, strong sun light, repeated abrasions as from a jagged tooth), 3) possibly, biological products produced by parasites."
During the years of World War II, the ASCC became rebranded as the American Cancer Society and its board became increasingly infiltrated by people who were from American industry instead of doctors or scientists. By 1946, half their board members were non-scientists.
In the 1950s the leaders of the ACS included W. B. Lewis, vice president of the tobacco giant Liggett and Myers. The ACS showed little support or enthusiasm for British and American studies connecting smoking and cancer, including studies from researchers within the ACS. Even after massive studies provided compelling evidence, the ACS still dragged their feet. In 1954 they reluctantly adopted a resolution stating "present evidence indicates an association between smoking, particularly cigarette smoking, and lung cancers", but they allowed their own researcher to publish his findings only so long as he listed numerous reservations about how the association might be tempered by air pollution, workspace dust and other things. For years afterward, the ACS stance was that more data was required before any firm conclusion could be reached.
Thus began a long history of the ACS stonewalling and taking positions counter to scientific evidence and in ways that benefited board members, donors and cancer causing industries.
In the next two installments of this series, we will take a look at many dubious actions by the ACS which reflect a repeated pattern of acting in favor of industries which cause and benefit from cancer while acting against the public interest in preventing and curing cancer.