Your Questions Answered

Ask Devra

Dr. Davis is interested in your questions related to any of the cancer related topic addressed by her book or by her work with the foundation. Please feel free to begin a conversation with Dr. Davis by submitting your questions to Allow 3-5 days for a response either directly to your email or come back to check for an answer on this site. We want to hear from you!

Q: What can we be do to solve the cancer problem?

A: We should start with looking under our kitchen sinks and finding safer substitutes for the things we use every day that appear to be toxic, according to their labels. We should become informed about the goods and the bads of cancer, by finding resources such as The Green Guide that highlight what is known or suspected to increase cancer risks that we can control.

Q: What are the “known for 100 years cancer-causers” that you reference?

A: For nearly a century, the following things have been understood to cause cancer: tobacco, benzene, asbestos, tars, sunlight, hormones, and radiation. You can read the book to learn more. We have met the enemy, as Pogo once quipped, and it is us. The best solution to this dilemma is for people to become informed and motivated to make simple changes in their lives that will enhance how long and how well they live.

Q: Is second-hand smoke dangerous?

A: Secondhand smoke contains a number of proven cancer-causing agents. Human evidence on its hazards may be somewhat inconsistent, but this does not mean there is no evidence of its dangers. Rather, these inconsistencies reflect the inherent limits of the discipline. It took more than fifty years for the world’s scientists to reach an agreement on the dangers of smoking, and there are still serious scientific disagreements about the scale and scope of the problem. Those disagreements are inherent in science, and should not be misconstrued to mean there is no problem.

Q. I have heard there is a link between drinking milk and breast cancer. Is that true?

Whether or not milk increases some illnesses, including breast cancer, is something that should be more carefully studied. It would not surprise many of my colleagues to learn that milk is not an essential food for humans after babyhood, and that it can be a source of health problems for some.

Q: From your writings, it appears that the consistent trend is that those with money are manipulating or delaying cancer research findings that would help those without money. In a capitalist society, how do we correct this?

A: There are few incentives to reduce the demand for cancer treatment by attacking cancer upstream to prevent it, and many incentives to profit from increased demand for expensive treatments/diagnoses by awaiting its arrival downstream.

We need to create new incentives in the private and public sector to prevent cancer-causing agents and exposures, and eliminate incentives for costly, ineffective, and sometimes dangerous drugs. At this point, as a May, 2007 Times editorial noted, “[t]he explosion in the use of three anti-anemia drugs to treat cancer and kidney patients illustrates much that is wrong in the American pharmaceutical marketplace.” These drugs can be life-saving in cases of severe anemia, but are being inappropriately used for many kidney dialysis and cancer patients today. Touted as giving cancer patients more energy, the drugs actually can lead to earlier deaths in many instances.

The Times piece went on to say that, “[t]hanks to big payoffs to doctors, and reckless promotional ads permitted by lax regulators, the drugs have reached blockbuster status.” In fact, the FDA has reported that these drugs may do more harm than good in many instances. The Capitol Steps, a political-satire singing troop, have even spoofed the proliferation of TV ads promoting drugs to treat increasingly bizarre diseases, like Restless Leg Syndrome.

The economic incentives are all wrong here, as Alex Berenson and Andrew Pollack noted in a May 9, 2007 Times article. The broad advertising and use of injected medicines — Aranesp and Epogen, from Amgen; and Procrit, from Johnson & Johnson, to name two — to boost the energy of cancer patients by reducing their exhausting anemias have been fueled by perfectly legal payouts or rebates in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Medicare directly reimburses doctors for buying the drugs, and then doctors also get bonuses or rebates reflecting how much of the drug they have bought.

The Times editorial also noted that, “[o]ne group of six cancer doctors in the Pacific Northwest earned a profit of about $1.8 million last year thanks to rebates from Amgen, while a large chain of dialysis centers gets an estimated 25 percent of its revenue, and a higher percentage of its profits, from the anemia drugs.” It’s possible that concerns from a recent FDA Advisory panel about these drugs will cause oncologists to rethink their use. But a more efficient way to stop this costly and inefficient practice would be to ban drug rebates. Federal laws have finally stopped drug companies from paying doctors to prescribe pills. I agree with the Times editorial board’s assertion that these prohibitions “should be extended to injected and intravenous medicines.”

Q: Can private companies ever be part of the solution?

A: The conflicts of interest and compromise of healthcare involved in corporate sponsorship of medicine have been thoroughly parsed, documented, and indicted by Marcia Angell and many other luminaries. More money is spent advertising and creating “demand” for pharmaceuticals than is spent researching them, in many major firms. There may well be a need for the government to create outright bans on direct advertisement to consumers, and subsidies to medical education and practice.

Still, when it comes to combating cancer, I am not opposed to corporations sponsoring some activities, provided that it is done with appropriate guards against bias. Major companies are responding, in some cases on a voluntary basis, to environmental concerns about climate change, global warming, and other concerns about pollution. In fact, with respect to reducing greenhouse gases, major global firms and many large cities throughout the world have begun to act, even though the benefits cannot be seen in the short-term. The market is responding to environmental needs. The tremendous growth of green industry in building, repairs, computers, paints, and even fashion — where green is the new black — remains phenomenal, despite the recent market turmoil.

Health insurance systems are also adopting preventive policies that put more money in the pockets of those who adopt healthier personal behaviors. These include offering premium reductions to those who lose weight, stop smoking, use health clubs, and take courses in healthier home practices. This trend needs to be expanded to companies directly. Corporations that create financial incentives for pollution prevention policies in their workplaces should get reduced health insurance premiums for their employees.

Q: Recently, non-governmental organizations seeking a cure for cancer seem to have had some success in the form of large cash prizes. Is it time we had a massive “Cancer Cure Prize”?

A: I’m not sure we would recognize the prize-worthy idea if we saw it, because the solution is unlikely to come from a single idea, but from the combined effects of many different resources devoted to reducing the toll of cancer. For example, my own healthcare system at the University of Pittsburgh is greening the entire system to get rid of suspect cancer-causing agents through practices as disparate as improved purchasing policies, advanced recycling and waste reduction, and improved transportation and housing.

The green building revolution makes clear the power of the purse to create markets. In Texas, at the University of Pittsburgh, and throughout the Kaiser Permanente system in California, those in charge of buying building materials and keeping buildings running have become the next generation of environmental champions. They are doing this because they save money by avoiding cleanups and repairs, while also keeping their staff healthier and more productive. As a result, such places are looking hard for environmentally safer purchases. Where they don’t find them easily, they are helping invent them. An entire new industry is making building materials from natural products and recycled materials. Old blue jeans can be shredded into fluffy cotton insulation. Used paper can be compressed to create work surfaces held together with natural plant resins. Floors can be made out of cork or natural rubber, or other fast-growing plants and trees that can be harvested and replanted. Walls can be painted in naturally-based paints that don’t leave painters or workers with red eyes, parched throats or asthma attacks. Hospital gowns can be made from recycled paper.

Q: What incentives are needed to develop more holistic and natural treatments for cancer?

A: People are voting with their pocketbooks. Expenses for integrative or alternative medicine are now billions of dollars a year. The National Center for Alternative Medicine at the NIH is funding research on some of these treatments, as is the National Cancer Institute itself. There are serious methodological issues about how best to study the combined uses of acupuncture, yoga, meditation, music, and herbal and nutritional therapies, in patients with advanced disease or in healthy people determined to stay healthy. The gold standard of clinical trials can’t work in this circumstance. Some of my colleagues, like Mitchell Gaynor, Judy Balk, Woody Merrell, Freddie Kronenberg, David Eisenberg, Mark Hyman, and Andy Weill, are devising new approaches to this important issue.

Q: What would you think of a single-payer system that compensated health professionals based on the wellness of their patients?

A: This is an excellent idea that has been used by a number of countries with national health systems, including Britain, Cuba, and others.

Q: Do you see our ongoing exposure to benzene in gasoline as an issue?

A: Yes. I am especially concerned about children pumping gasoline, and those who live or go to school near gas stations, underground storage areas, and processing plants, where such emissions can be considerable. As with all of these hazards, the exposures and risks are far greater in the rapidly developing world, which also lacks the infrastructure to measure, monitor or mediate such conditions.

Q: The story of tobacco research sounds a lot like what is happening today with the oil industry and global warming. Do you agree?

A: The exploitation of scientific uncertainty is a growing problem. America is waking up to the fact that, on issues like global warming and environmental health, the media manufactures confusion by finding extreme views and counterpoints to highlight. As the awarding the of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show, most of the world understands that science, while uncertain, knows enough to reach some conclusions about major threats. I was a lead author of the IPCC, and participated in the process of reaching consensus with more than two thousand scientists over several years, so I know that scientific consensus evolves slowly, and is not immune to political and economic pressures.

Q: What are some worthwhile cancer research organizations I could donate to?

A: Tremendous success has been achieved in finding and treating some cancers, driven by groups like the American Cancer Society, the Komen Foundation, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. But these only deal with the end of the pipe. There are a number of groups working to prevent cancer, including the Environmental Working Group, the Healthy Child, Breast Cancer Action, Breast Cancer Fund, and our own center for environmental oncology.

You can also visit this link for a list of cancer resources.

Q: Aren’t you profiting from cancer the same way that businesses do by selling a book? Also, as someone who is so concerned with health, why are you allowing Wal-Mart to sell your book?

A: If you believe in capitalism and the marketplace, then books get sold where people go to buy them. As you may imagine, I have no control over where the book is sold. Any individual who has qualms about where the book is being sold should feel free to buy it elsewhere.

In addition, I am not profiting from the sales of this book, because if there are any profits, they will go to support the Devra Lee Davis Charitable Foundation, which is devoted to supporting research and public policy to prevent cancer.

Q: I was reading about how the funders of medical research were making so much money that there would probably never be cures for most cancers, because a cure would mean the end of funding. Is this accurate?

A: There is money to be made in prevention. I am confident that businesses will figure this out. For instance, supplementation of food with omega-3-fatty acids will protect against heart disease and reduce the risk of cancer. The use of some broccoli extracts appears highly effective against some forms of cancer. There is no reason why other such approaches cannot be tried on a broad scale that would result in tremendous profits for those who create the best ways of delivering these products. This may involve genetically manufacturing agents that have enhanced amounts of good fats and other nutritionally desirable content.

Q: Do you have an opinion on the recent reports that an additive to plastic baby bottles and other bottles may be associated with a higher cancer risk?

A: The risks of Bisphenol A (BPA) to our children should not be dismissed, and are probably greatest before birth and immediately afterwards. As with most environmental issues, there is money to be made from doing things right and doing the right thing. BPA is a plasticizer that can leach from plastic baby bottles, especially when heated. The risk is greater for young infants, especially boys who are born prematurely. Mothers with higher levels of this compound in their blood during pregnancy produce baby boys that are less masculinized, according to important new work by Professor Shanna Swan of Rochester University. As there are safer alternatives to using this compound, these alternatives should be made broadly available.

Q: Are artificial sweeteners today’s tobacco?

A: Aspartame is unlikely to become as clearly tied with cancer as tobacco, nor is its risk likely to be as high. The concerns about aspartame relate to two matters — it was not well-tested, and it has become ubiquitous in people of all ages. The testing of its ability to cause cancer was not adequately conducted before it was approved by the FDA, within five months of Reagan’s inauguration. Prior to that time, every single scientific panel to review the data on aspartame’s safety rejected approval of it.

Recent data from a respected scientific institution in Italy reports that animals that have low doses of aspartame, comparable to what can be consumed in a diet today, have increased rates of tumors when they reach an age equivalent to the human age of sixty. With aspartame, as with many modern technologies, we are carrying out uncontrolled experiments on our children, the full results of which will only become apparent in forty years or so. Animal studies have found that every agent that we know causes cancer in humans also causes cancer in animals, when adequately tested. We would be profoundly mistaken to ignore these latest studies from animals. The human studies that have exonerated aspartame have involved looking at older people, and have never asked about the damaging effects on children of using the product throughout their lifetimes.

Q: A comprehensive study on the link between diet and cancer was just released by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Do you have any comment on it?

A: The tie of obesity with cancer is unsurprising, as is the realization that diets high in animal fats, alcohol, and red meat confer a high risk of cancer. Fat has been called a natural hazardous waste site, because it accumulates fat-loving synthetic organic chemicals, which move up the food chain. The larger and older the fish or mammal, the higher the amount of toxic chemicals it can accumulate. Generally, it makes sense to live high in the watershed — above zones into which pollutants can drain — and eat low on the food chain, where toxic chemicals are less likely to accumulate.

Q: Do you have any comment on Clifton Leaf’s Fortune article, Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer ?

A: Leaf’s article does an excellent job of documenting the scale and scope of the efforts to find and treat cancer, and the complexities of the disease. It does not address the bulk of my book, which shows the need to attend to the known and suspected causes of cancer. No matter how efficient we may become at attacking the disease, we must address the upstream issue of preventing it from arising in the first place. Worldwide, there are about 17 million cancer causes. Most of these occur in countries lacking chemotherapy, radiation, and access to regular care. Prevention remains, as my center slogan holds, the best cure for cancer.

Q: Dr. Davis, My nephew is a cell phone addict. At age 18, he developed a mass on his pelvis near where he keeps his phone - turned on of course. He was successfully treated for stage 4 Hogkin's disease and is now about to go off to college. I can't help but anecdotely tie the cell phone to his cancer. Has or is any research being done in this area? I'd sure like to get him to ditch the phone. Thank you. BTW, I am from Donora, PA. My mother, in her 80's, is fighting her second bout of breast cancer. There is now a Donora Smog museum. Speaking for all of us from the Mon Valley, we appreciate your work. — Dado

A. I very much appreciate your concerns and hearing from someone from the Mon Valley. Your nephew is fortunate in that treatments for Hodgkin’s disease can be very successful. Unfortunately we can seldom determine why any single individual develops cancer.

We cannot definitively know whether or not his pattern of use of cell phone contributed to his disease, but we can be certain that the cell signal has been absorbed into the body. We also know that those who are younger are more susceptible to such exposures. Consistent with the advice that Dr. Ronald Herberman has given the staff of our cancer center, it would seem prudent to limit direct exposures by not wearing a cell phone and keeping it on at most times. Further information can be found at our website here and at, and through

I look forward to commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of Donora’s Killer Smog this coming October in Donora in two months.

Q: I just finished reading your book - which I thought was excellent! On page 292 your book mentions a holistic treatment called a purple remedy, a receipe for purple herbs that some patients with cancer took that made they better. What herbs, remedy were you referring to? — B. Strzalkowski

A: Unfortunately, I was never able to determine the identity of this particular remedy. In fact, the woman who reported using this compound made a complete recovery from advanced cancer. The fact that a remedy of this sort apparently existed and was useful to someone who was not expected to live tells us something fundamentally important about cancer treatment. Research underway today at NCI and at UPCI is exploring the capacity of a host of naturally occurring materials to arrest cancer development by boosting the immune system or through other mechanisms that are under active research at this time. Those who are interested in such approaches should work with scientists conducting clinical trials in the use of naturally occurring agents as adjuncts to chemotherapy or sometimes as replacements for it.

Q:Hospice workers dump Comfort Pak unused drugs down the toilet once a patient dies. I do not know whether this is a widely known fact, but this procedure needs to be stopped because all those pharmaceuticals go into our drinking water.— A. Grabbe

A: You are correct that pharmaceuticals should not be flushed down the toilet. This is a problem that EPA needs to deal with.

Q:Is there a cure for lung cancer, or anything better than IV chemotherapy? What about anything holistic, or a known cure being used outside the USA?— D. Jackson

A. Throughout the country, centers for integrative medicine exist at many major medical centers, where serious research and clinical trials are underway using nontraditional approaches to cancer treatment, including various nutritional and other agents that are being used to complement or augment conventional treatment.

Q: I am concerned about administering Frontline to my dog once a month between April and October to control ticks and fleas. Is there something less toxic and equally as effective that I could use instead? — Betty

A. As with lice, the most common treatments for flea infestations contain pesticides and may be carcinogenic or simply unhealthy for you or your pets. Here are some suggestions for ways to get fleas out of your life without doing extra harm to your pets, your children, or yourself: View the PDF.

Q: How can we better communicate our desire to forgo radiation in medical procedures? MRI's can replace CT scans, ultrasounds can be used for dental diagnoses (especially on children), but doctors generally do not like consumers to second guess and ask for these things. How can we get the message to them? — Sorenna

A. The American College of Radiology has issued a white paper on this subject to which you can refer health professionals. Our Center is working closely with radiologists to improve public and health professional understanding of alternatives. You can find information on

Q: Could you recommend what you would consider the best source for information on how to replace the chemicals in our homes? I am particularly interested in house cleaning items. It is so trial and error. Most ready made items labeled natural or safer don't work that well, and I am having very limited success with homemade cleaners — Marilyn

A. We have a list of external resources available on the Environmental Health Trust website: You would probably find the book Green This! By Deirdre Imus very interesting.

Q: Thanks very much for very insightful information and being a voice of sanity and reason about very pressing health issues. Re: melanoma--have you considered that the use of refined oils in our diet may have increased our susceptibility? Consider the Mediterranean people with liberal use of virgin olive oil. EFA's may counter the skin's inability to handle the radiation from the sun, as well as B vitamins and other nutrients which are often missing from the American diet of processed foods. It has never made sense to me that the sun is our enemy. I look forward to seeing more of you in the media. People need good information to be savvy health consumers. — A. Dunev, PhD, C.N.

A. This is an excellent suggestion. In fact, saturated fats and highly processed foods have many negative impacts on our health. Nutrition makes a big difference in the ability of our cells to fend off the normal oxidative damage of daily life, including that arising from too much sunlight. People do need at least twenty minutes daily of sun exposure in order to synthesize vitamin D and calcium appropriately. Those with darker skin need more time. Vitamin D and calcium deficiencies have also been found to be risk factors for several forms of cancer.

A. Unfortunately efforts to extract and study this compound were not successful. Encouraged for the results from this and related work, Dr.Mitchell Gaynor treats patients today with an array of nutritional fortifications as adjunct to chemotherapy that take into account genetic characteristics of patients. Functional Medicine is a growing field that develops specific therapies that take into account interactions between genes and the environment to promote health and reverse or repair disease processes ranging from cancer to diabetes to cardiovascular disease.
The Institute of Functional Medicine
Dr. Mark Hyman
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor

Q: Thank you for your book of truth and wisdom. I am a 59 year old Jewish grandma with a history of breast cancer and lymphoma. I can easily make a list of possible toxic exposures over my life. Currently, I'm a graduate student writing a thesis about how creativity, meditation, and environmental activism can support healing from cancer. Maybe we need a resurgence of the WFA with a slightly different twist. It would be a volunteer group that educates communities about environmental issues and cancer and could be called Women's Environmental Peace Activists. We need to get the word out. What do you think? — R. Grossman

A. May you be inscribed for a sweet and healthy new year, as the Jewish New Year and days of penitence begin.  The Coalition of Organizations on the Environment and Jewish Life provides inspiring direction to persons interested in Jewish environmental issues, and Canfein Nesharim provides this to those who are orthodox.  You may find others in these groups who share your concerns.

Q: I suffer from EHS. Urgent please contact me!!!! — W. Nadrofsky

A. I am sorry, but I can’t provide any medical advice.

Q: Hello, Was the 1936 Brussels Congress held under the auspices of the UICC? Also: One article mentioned a website for the book which contains scanned excerpts of the International Congress proceedings, is there a URL? — J. Fischer

A. Background documents for the book’s key references can be found at

Q: Your writings speak often of removing things we suspect are cancer causing. As a mother I try to do that for my family. What are your recommendations for things we should avoid. I know cell phones, smoking, but what else. What do you avoid in your life? Thank you for such straightforward information. — V. Adams

These web sites provide you with valuable information. Eating well is an obvious and important thing to do, and need not involve the expense of going totally organic, for foods like bananas and melons. Then, look under your kitchen sink and in your bathroom and realize that anything that comes in contact with your skin can potentially affect your health. Many websites provide useful information, including that of our center;;;;

Q: I read your book and heard you on The People's Pharmacy. Thank you for bringing this important information to light. You say that we need to be aware of the products that we are putting on our bodies. What are there specific toxins that are included in lotions, soaps and cosmetics that we need to avoid? I am especially concerned about body lotion as we use so much of it on a daily basis. Thank you. — S. Loredo

Lists of ingredients to avoid can be found on many web sites including, which sells products shown to be safer as evaluated by

Q: Do cordless home phones pose a threat? I am finding your book very interesting. Thank you. — C. Wolfe

Most cordless phones emit radiofrequency signals comparable to those generated by cell phones, but do so continuously. New cordless phones are being designed in Europe that only emit signals when in use.

Q: I have recently been spending time online gathering information about xenoestrogens and some of the information is contradictory. I was just wondering if you could clarify a few things. I'm under the impression that xenoestrogens have been linked to breast cancer and I would like to minimize my exposure to them. What I am confused about is whether or not xenoestrogens from both synthetic/artificial sources AND those from plants are bad. I drink fennel tea, use lavender and tea tree essential oils, eat soy beans and soy products I'm currently living in South Korea so soy is hard to avoid! , and eat sunflower seeds, flax seeds and flax oil, all of which have been identified as acting like estrogen once in the body. The things I listed have all been suggested to me TO INCLUDE in my diet/life because of their health benefits but now I am concerned about their xenoestrogen behaviour. I've heard you speak at several conferences and when I had this question I didn't know who else to ask. If this is something you can't directly comment on, do you know of anyone else I can contact? I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you. — E. Macro

Moderation in all things is advised. There is some experimental evidence that genistein, one of the active ingredients in soy products, can disturb hormones. Human studies generally find that those who eat diets that include soy products are healthier, but these diets generally also include many vegetables and fruits and do not include high levels of red meat. This makes it difficult to determine the best balance. Persons who have developed estrogen positive breast cancer are generally advised to keep soy consumption to a minimum. As to other synthetic sources of xenoestrogens, this is a topic that requires serious additional scientific research.

Q: Why is the medical community so reluctant to accept thermographic imaging as an accurate, totally non-invasive, early warning test for tumor development? Particularly for younger women. I lost my first wife to breast cancer at the age of 37. — J. Willis

I am very sorry to hear of this tragic loss. Unfortunately, thermography has not been shown to be effective as a screening tool. Resources have not been allocated to advancing thermographic studies. There clearly needs to be more studies carried out on this, as mammographic screening does not work well in younger women.

Q: Is there any question as to whether cordless telephones could have been a cause of brain cancer? Also, I recently read The Secret History of the War on Cancer. Do you know of any plans to make the cancer issue into a movie? Though possibly controversial, I actually would like to see a movie come out to make the public aware of the causes, risks, and health issues related to cancer. G. Castagna

Yes, cordless phones do emit radiofrequency signals similar to those released by mobile phones. Lennart Hardell has reported in studies conducted in Sweden that there are elevated risks of some types of brain tumors associated with the use of these phones. (visit this link)

Movies can be powerful ways to educate and motivate people. I have been involved in several documentary film efforts to provide information links can be found on our web site.

Q: I was reading about the connection in between cancer and cell phones. I am a little concerned. I sleep with my cell phone under my pillow sometimes and I always feel its not the right thing to do. I was 7 weeks pregnant a couple of days ago, I am going through a miscarriage right now and I wonder if its happening because sometimes my phone is by my stomach or my back when I wake up. It always gets lost on the bed. Thanks for your help! V. M.

I recommend strongly that nobody ever sleep with their cell phone on, a recommendation that is also made by a number of health authorities in other countries.

Determining the causes of miscarriage is always difficult, because there are usually many different causes. Reducing your exposure to radiofrequency is a good idea for many reasons. A diet that includes folates can be important for many reasons, including promoting reproductive health.

Q: I thought that you should know that I reviewed your book on and on number 80.
My question is: on how many cancer patients have you run a heavy metal body burden survey on before, during or after treating for cancer? — R. Diaz

A: This is an excellent question. The role of heavy metals and other long-lived contaminants in inducing cancer is an important topic of research. Experimental studies have consistently found that a number of heavy metals, including cadmium, arsenic, and nickel, are associated with increased cancer in animals. Some of these have also been found to increase cancer risk in highly exposed workers. Unfortunately, we do not have long run studies underway that can answer this question of the role of such exposures in the general population. But, experimental studies and workplace studies certainly indicate the need to control and reduce exposures whenever feasible.

Q: Thanks. I finished your book in November and you are to be praised for a marvelous effort and for the courage in bringing it into print. I, too, am a writer who believes that the first priority for cancer should be prevention and curing it as well. My web site, has a link that deals with a cancer cure - essiac. I am a 3-time cancer victim, colon - 2 and prostate - 1. My sister had ovarian cancer in 2001 and my older brother had colon cancer a few months ago. My younger brother has been spared, as of this date. We are all survivors, so far. I also read a related book recently that you probably read, Poisoned Nation by Loretta Schwartz-Nobel. Keep up the good work. — B. Swiatek

A: Thanks.

Q: I am reading your book The Secret War ... and it's quite enlightening. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2008 and had 2 surgeries to obtain clean margins and a 3rd surgery to obtain a wider margin on one of the clean margins. When I was first diagnosed, it was referred to as small and very treatable, and the path report following surgery showed no lymph involvement in the sentinel lymph nodes. As treatment progressed to the oncologist, I was shocked to learn they were recommending both radiation and chemotherapy, the latter to eradicate any possible cancer cells that might have escaped elsewhere in my body despite no lymph involvement. I have heard of many cases where there have been recurrences despite chemo treatment to reduce the risk of recurrence. Last week, I attended the funeral of a friend who died from aggressive chemo that damaged his heart and he suffered heart failure. I have a highly reactive system to any and all drugs and am terrified that chemo will hurt me far more than it might help me on a gamble that cancer cells are elsewhere in my body. What is your opinion on these adjuvant therapies for women like me who are lymph - and HER2-? Thank you for your help. --J. Bryson

A: I am very sorry to learn of your diagnosis. I am not a clinician and cannot offer personal medical advice. I advise that you find a physician that you trust who will take the time to listen to your concerns and help you and your family make the best decision. Best wishes… Let me know if you have any questions.

Q: During your lecture this evening (at the Carnegie Music Hall), you pointed out that a very effective (and inappropriate) defense to a claimed environmental problem is to raise doubt about the scientific proof of the source of the problem: Why is it not equally effective (and inappropriate) for a claim to be made that something might be the source of a problem without scientific proof cell phones, for example ? Isn't this the reason we have established independent qualified governmental agencies to sort through these issues to arrive at appropriate guidance for the public? — B. Evans

A: When we succeed in restoring our independent government authorities to their rightful function, then it will be possible to expect expert evaluation on which the public can rely. Unfortunately our regulatory authorities are woefully understaffed and underfunded at this time. That is one reason why I created a foundation to support the conduct of independent evaluations on issues such as these.

Q: My sister died of liver cancer, no cirrhosis/minimal alcohol, and no hepatitis exposure. Liver Ca is so rare in the U.S., I am still trying to figure out what took her before 50 y.o. The only factors may be excessive prescriptive use of estrogen to treat OB-GYN problems she had, or possibly exposure to vinyl chloride in some form. Her work history included being a packer at a dessicant distributor, and as a CAD designer in R&D dept. of an oxygen concentrator/generator company. I do not know if vinyl chloride gas is ever present in manufacturer of the latter--do you have any knowledge if the mfg. process of oxygen systems would be a potential source? I plan to read your book shortly. Thank you for any leads or insight you can provide.
Thank you,
— J Cochran

A: It is very difficult to determine causes of cancer in any given individual, because the disease has a long latency and can arise from many different factors. Working with plastics and heat at a time when they contained vinyl chloride is certainly a suspect cause of liver cancer, especially when the cancer occurs at such a young age in a person with none of the known risk factors.

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