The Greatest Battle

Random House, $6.95

The majority of cancers are caused by man-made poisons in the environment and thus could be prevented: that is the bold claim of Ronald Glasser, who is a professor of pediatrics and author of three previous books, including The Body is the Hero. Although cancers have been medically described from the time of Hippocrates, the present drastic increase in malignancies is directly traceable, he believes, to our reckless misuse of drugs, chemicals, and radioactive materials.
There are well-known examples to support his conviction: cigarette tars and lung cancer; x-ray overdose and thyroid cancer; radiation and skin cancer. In these and in the numerous other cases cited by the author, however, it took a long time to recognize and isolate the cancer-causing agents. The natural lapse (in humans twenty to thirty years) between exposure to a carcinogen and the onset of cancer contributed to the delay, as did the slow dissemination of research discoveries and energetic lobbying by various industries to protect their interests.
According to Glasser, a cell exposed to as little, conceivably, as one molecule of a carcinogen remains in a potentially malignant state until it dies a natural death or something causes it to become cancerous; it will never revert to normal, though it may appear to be normal for years. For him, the ultimate horror is that carcinogens can cross the placenta in pregnant women, and may set off a cancerous growth in the offspring as many as twenty years after birth.
The Greatest Battle is occasionally non-scientific in its enthusiasm: “By simple elementary prevention, one cancer after another has been eliminated, wiped from the earth as surely and completely as smallpox and cholera.” Different schools of cancer research will no doubt take issue with the fine points of Glasser’s theory. But the case for eradicating environmental poisons is unarguable.
It seems likely that for every carcinogen labeled by researchers, ten more are freely circulating in the environment. If so, many of us have already been exposed, and the eventual outcome may well be beyond our control. It is not too late, argues the author, to protect our unborn children.
Martha Spaulding