The American Cancer Society tells its story as it sees it and wants us to know it. Like so many organization-sponsored...


CRUSADE: The Official History of the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society tells its story as it sees it and wants us to know it. Like so many organization-sponsored histories, this one suffers from disorganization, a tendency to lopsided emphasis, and a certain disassociation from its significance in relation to the full history of its era. Much of this may well be due to the approval process that contorts so many official organization histories into the proverbial camel created by a committee. The organization was born in 1913 when a group of doctors (mostly gynecologists) formed what was then called the American Society for the Control of Cancer. Its purpose: to ""disseminate knowledge"" about a disease that, at the time, was never mentioned in polite society, and to gather statistics and other data about it. To fulfill these modest goals, the society, at first, appears to have done little more than to convince the Federal government to gather statistics on cancer deaths and to reap the benefits of a volunteer ""Women's Field Army""--which raised money and spread the word in homes throughout the nation that cancer was not incurable. In 1944, Albert and Mary Lasker began shaking up and providing new direction for the society. A wealthy advertising man, Albert brought in publicity experts (who changed the name), got high-powered executives on the board and drummed up money. Wife Mary pushed the society into the financing of research. In the early 1950's, the ACS fielded 22,000 volunteers who kept track of over 200,000 middle-aged men for four years, producing hard evidence that those who smoked not only had a greatly increased risk of lung and other cancers, but also of heart attacks. More recent ACS-funded research led to the discovery of the first human cancer-causing retrovirus and a better understanding of oncogenes--which increase the likelihood of cancer in those who have inherited them. In sum: a fairly useful public-relations tool for the ACS and a morale booster for the 1.6-million volunteers who drum up money for it; otherwise, too patently pro-ACS to give a full picture of the cancer research controversy.

Pub Date: March 26, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Arbor House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987