The Secret History of the War on Cancer

There is A New Book in the Inconvenient Woman’s Bookshelf…

The Secret History of the War on Cancer, by Devra Davis, PhD, MPH

Review by Leslie Botha, Holy Hormones Honey!

In a recent interview on CSPAN Davis stated, “For much of its history, the cancer war has been fighting the wrong battles, with the wrong weapons, against the wrong enemies.”

The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Dr. Devra Davis shows, decade by decade, how the campaign has targeted the disease and left off the table the things that cause it—tobacco, alcohol, the workplace, and other environmental hazards. Conceived in explicitly military terms, the effort has focused on defeating an enemy by detecting, treating, and curing disease. Overlooked and suppressed was any consideration of how the world in which we live and work affects whether we get cancer. The result is appalling: over 10 million preventable cancer deaths over the past thirty years.

This has been no accident.

With each page of Davis’ carefully crafted book, readers will become more conscious of the obvious issues that have been ignored or marginalized and appalled by the attitude and actions of America’s medical profession, the American Cancer Society, the petrochemical industry and, “our” government. Many of us concerned with the health and wellness of women and girls knew something just wasn’t right; but Dr. Davis’s book moves us from inkling to awareness.

Filled with compelling personalities and never-before-revealed information. The Secret History of the War on Cancer is the gripping story of a major public health effort diverted and distorted for private gain. It carefully documents how, over time, the “WAR” on Cancer has come to be orchestrated by the leaders of those industries that made cancer-causing products, and who sometimes profited from drugs and technologies for finding and treating the disease.

Davis, driven by the conviction, writes with passion about premature deaths, and preventable illnesses resulting from exposure to industrial toxins and presents a powerful call to action. In the book she proposes a kind of truth-and-reconciliation approach to get industry and public health experts mutually involved; but notes that, based on the continued loss of life, change is simply not happening fast enough.

Among the Findings Described in The Secret History of the War on Cancer

— As early as 1936, the world’s leading cancer scientists understood that tobacco, diagnostic and solar radiation, benzene, and hormones caused cancer. The preparation and conduct of World War II with its focus on immediate survival effectively sidetracked these early findings of cancer hazards.

— Many more young people (those under 40 years of age) are getting cancer. One of the reasons may be the excessive use of x-rays in infants and children, and our failures to reduce exposures to other cancer hazards like those in urban air or agents that can leach from some plastics. Earlier this year, the American College of Radiology advised against unnecessary and excessive use of CT and other forms of diagnostic radiation in children, warning that this will further add to the growing cancer burden in young people today.

— When first reports emerged that coke oven workers had higher rates of lung cancer in the 1970s, some suggested that this was because most of them were black. Not until similar findings showed up in white Mormon workers five years later, was the link between coke oven work and lung cancer established. While one in eight Americans today is black, one in three works in a blue collar job, and one in five lives within two miles of a hazardous waste site. This increased environmental burden has never been considered when trying to understand why rates of prostate, breast, and colo-rectal cancer are so much higher in blacks than whites.

— Davis cited women chemist in Shanghai had a 14% increased incidence of breast cancer; chemists around the world also have a higher rate of cancer – due to poor protection in the laboratory.

— The life-saving test for cervix cancer, called the Pap smear, was not put into use for more than a decade after it was shown to save lives, because of fears that it would undermine the private practice of medicine. These delays led to the deaths or unnecessary surgery of millions of women, who succumbed to an illness that could have been avoided.

— Pasteur developed the germ theory of disease and was concerned about infectious disease. His dying words were; “remember the host; remember the host conditions” – in reference to milkmaids and their carrying infectious germs – without necessarily becoming ill from them.

— Old approach to curing cancer came out of WWII and the poison Gas Therapy

Leukemia – over abundance of white blood cells (weiss blut) chemotherapy was developed as a poison gas to fight the cells and was developed as secret army research.

—New paradigm of treating cancer includes boosting the immune system and the development of extracts from broccoli, chocolate and red wine to fight what many are coming to believe are cancers that are viral in nature.

Concerning Hormones and Cancer…

Davis reintroduces Barbara Seaman’s 1969 book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, which was the basis for the Nelson Pill Hearings on the safety of the combined oral contraceptive pill. As a result of the hearings, a health warning was added to the pill, the first informational insert for any prescription drug. Robert Finch, Secretary of HEW, wrote Seaman “… THE DOCTORS’ CASE AGAINST THE PILL… was a major factor in our strengthening the language in the final warning published in the Federal Register to be included in each package of the Pill.” The dramatic events surrounding the hearings also brought together many soon-to-be prominent health feminists for the first time, and encouraged them to pursue further action. In 1975 Seaman co-founded the National Women’s Health Network with Alice Wolfson, Belita Cowan, Mary Howell, M.D., and Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. According to Davis – we should have listened to Barbara’s warning thirty years ago. Dr Seaman is now celebrated in the same medical circles that blackballed her then. The government has finally confirmed that her warning about synthetic estrogen was correct.

— Davis cites studies showing HRT raises the risk of breast cancer, blood clots, heart attacks and dementia.

— About HPV …it is a factor in not just cervical cancer, but laryngeal and an anal — however the vaccine has not been fully tested as an agent against infectious disease.

—Questionable HPV Trail Methodology — Less than 20,000 girls between the ages of 15 – 25 were tested, and yet the CDC recommends the vaccine for girls as young as 11 and 12. Davis raised the question of what about the boys? And noted that two of three sexual encounters for teens less than 18 yrs old ARE NOT CONSENTUAL.

What People Are Saying

“A breathtaking, impeccably documented wake-up call for what we should have done and what we must do!”

— Teresa Heinz Kerry, co-author of This Moment on Earth


“With the mastery of a great writer, Devra Davis takes the reader inside the successes, the failures, and the ambiguity of research on cancer.”

— Lorenzo Tomatis, MD, Former Director,

International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization

“The Secret History of the War on Cancer is a masterful combination of scientific insights and investigative journalism. If you want to know why one in three Americans develops cancer, read this book.”

—Mitchell Gaynor, MD, President, Gaynor Integrative Oncology

About the Author

Devra Davis, Ph.D., M.P.H., is the Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and Professor of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health. She was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board in 1994 and also served as Scholar in Residence at the National Academy of Science. She works in Pittsburgh, and lives in Washington, D.C.


A portion of the profits from this book will go to support research on cancer prevention.


OK! OK! I’ve read it NOW WHAT!

This book is a timely, well-written, and stunning exposé — Share It.

  • Request your local library ordered a copy of the book.
  • If your local bookstore is not carrying the book, request that they order it.
  • Start a reading group based at your local bookstore.
  • Request that your local high school and college libraries order the book. If they don’t have the budget, buy it your self and donate the book to the library (Donations are a tax deductible action)
  • Buy and send a copy to our congressional representative, and ask what he/she plans to do to stop the uncontrolled use and dumping of toxins into our environment and to protect the health of people who what to work with or around these chemicals and environmental toxins.
  • Talk to your friends and family about the book and what it means to their health.

Inconvenient Women do not get Angry — We Get ACTIVE!


Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.