Misconstrued Review

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I’ve been a member of ASCO for longer than I can remember. I read most breast cancer–related articles in The ASCO Post and find them helpful, particularly the reports of as-yet-unpublished papers from meetings. So, it is with great disappointment that, in the November 10, 2015, issue, I read a review of ­Monona Rossol’s book, Pick Your Poison, that used the phrase “bankrupt line of reasoning” to describe Ms. Rossol’s suggestion that environmental chemicals might influence the incidence of cancer.

It is unfortunate that this book review creates the impression that ASCO considers questions about the carcinogenic potential of environmental chemicals to be settled beyond any reasonable doubt. Indeed, it is unclear why ASCO will not take an official position admitting the possibility that the mixture of chemicals in which we all live every day might have an adverse effect on the incidence of cancer.

That, however, would be a political statement. The difficulty is that facts have a way of superseding opinions and negotiated official positions. Despite the apparent silence by ASCO, there is science to support concern about the carcinogenic potential of our chemical soup—for example, a recent review in Carcinogenesis offers a good starting point.1

Thank you for your consideration.

—William H. Goodson III, MD

Senior Scientist California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute
San Francisco, California


  1. Goodson WH 3rd, Lowe L, Carpenter DO, et al: Assessing the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment: The challenge ahead. Carcinogenesis 36(suppl 1):S254-S296, 2015.


Editor's Reply

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. We apologize for creating the impression that we were making a position statement on behalf of ASCO regarding environmental causes of cancer. That was certainly not our intent. The ideas and opinions expressed in our book reviews are meant to reflect those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of ASCO or Harborside Press (publisher of The ASCO Post). However, your note reminds us that we (the editors and publisher) need to do a better job of making that point clearer in future issues. ■