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August 16, 1995

Cancer Wars: How Politics Shapes What We Know and Don't Know About Cancer

Author Affiliations

UCLA School of Public Health Los Angeles, Calif

 

by Robert N. Proctor, 356 pp, $25, ISBN 0-465-02756-3, New York, NY, BasicBooks, 1995.

JAMA. 1995;274(7):584. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530070082036
Abstract

Cancer Wars by Robert N. Proctor makes a highly valuable contribution to the debate on what has caused cancer to become so prominent in this century and, especially, the forces that influence our understanding of that phenomenon.

Rachel Carson brought the environmentalist view vigorously into the public arena in 1962 with Silent Spring. Since then, argument has proceeded about the extent to which industrial processes and their products cause cancer and, whatever that extent, what should be done about it. The tone of Cancer Wars, written with a historian's perspective on the environmentalist-antienvironmentalist struggle over cancer causation, lies midway between scientific restraint and journalistic expression. For those familiar with the literature, the book can be said to avoid the extremes of either Samuel S. Epstein's The Politics of Cancer (environmentalist) or Edith Efron's The Apocalyptics (antienvironmentalist), though Proctor leans toward the former's point of view.

Media attention during the past

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