PITTSBURGH – In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon launched a “war” against cancer. But, nearly four decades later, the battle remains focused on highly profitable efforts to develop drugs and technologies to treat the disease while virtually ignoring environmental factors that cause it.
True, cancer deaths have dropped chiefly because of long-delayed – and still poorly supported – efforts to curb smoking. Successes with screening and treatment of breast, colo-rectal, and cervical cancer have also helped.
But blacks and other minorities in the United States – and elsewhere in the world – do not share in these successes, and environmental factors appear to explain the disparity. For example, while one in eight Americans is black, one in three is employed in sanitation or other blue-collar jobs. Moreover, they have half the level of cancer-protective vitamin D as whites, and they are much more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods.