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The Physicians Committee

American Cancer Society Sells Out

A wealth of scientific research has shown that meaty diets increase cancer risk. But to this the American Cancer Society (ACS) apparently says, “So what?” For a recent major fundraising campaign, it teamed up with Buckhead Beef Company to host a “Cattle Barons’ Ball” in Atlanta. Meals were donated by none other than Outback Steakhouse and featured beef tenderloin, crab cakes, and lamb. ACS divisions across the United States have used the same format to rake in millions of dollars.

PCRM's billboard near ACS Headquarters challenged the medical inconsistencies of "Cattle Barons' Ball" fund-raisers.

The truth is, animal products are the very culprits linked to high rates of cancer in Western countries, a fact not entirely lost on the ACS. Its Web site urges consumers to limit their intake of meat, acknowledging that “population studies have linked vegetarian diets with a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and colon cancer.” But instead of disseminating these findings far and wide, the ACS promotes Western-themed galas that are sure to weaken the public’s already shaky understanding of what contributes to cancer development.

Physicians Fight Back
PCRM’s national campaign helped set the record straight. A billboard was erected near ACS headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., introducing a specially designed Web site,, where visitors can access information about diet and cancer prevention. Radio, television, and newspaper interviews were given, including a frank commentary by epidemiologist Dr. Jina Shah in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointing to the fact that an estimated one-third of annual cancer deaths are due to dietary factors, including meat consumption.

Ron Allison, M.D., a radiation oncologist and cancer researcher in Greenville, N.C., said, “Every physician who treats cancer knows that a meat-based diet is linked to higher cancer risk. The American Cancer Society knows it, too, and it should be encouraging people to improve their eating habits, not promoting an unhealthy diet.”

Reality Check

Harvard University has conducted studies involving tens of thousands of participants showing that regular meat consumption can raise colon cancer risk by approximately 300 percent. Late last year, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that the rate of breast cancer among premenopausal women who ate the most animal fat was a third higher than that of women who ate the least animal fat. A separate study, published recently in Lancet, linked diets high in saturated fat to breast cancer.

But this isn’t exactly news. As long ago as 1982, the National Research Council linked dietary habits—particularly the intake of fatty foods, such as beef—to cancer risk. Since then, other major health authorities have come out with similar findings. The scientific literature has solidified the case against meat consumption, but ACS does little to communicate the message effectively. And by partnering with beef producers, it is shamelessly promoting the very disease it has pledged to stop.

What You Can Do
Write or call ACS and insist that it promote cancer prevention and cut its ties with the meat industry.

John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer
American Cancer Society
1599 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30329-4251
tel: 404-320-3333, fax: 404-327-6589

Please spread the word to individuals, organizations, and online listservs interested in a progressive approach to cancer that keeps prevention and nutrition up front. If you are looking for a way to promote efforts for cancer prevention, support PCRM’s Cancer Project (


Winter 2004
Volume XIII
Number 1

Good Medicine

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