Health scares come and go, but they often have a tenuous scientific basis. Kabat, a cancer epidemiologist, systematically rips through cancer alerts that overrode scientific rigor in recent decades. In so doing, he dispels the dubious science underlying the scares and explains how public confusion can come about.
A 1993 study, to take an example, linked breast cancer and environmental pollutants. The study connected DDT exposure to breast cancer at the very time women on New York’s Long Island had begun an activist campaign to “discover” the cause of what appeared to be a cluster of breast cancers there. Only after a federally funded, seven-year study found no link to DDT or other pollutants did the issue subside.
People want explanations for cancer. “In retrospect, it is striking how disposed the publi