International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals

History of Animal Experiments

13: Cancer Research Animals

Reliance on animal experiments can also have detrimental effects in other areas of medical research, diverting attention and resources from more relevant sources of information based on the study of people. By the early years of the 20th century, human population studies (known scientifically as epidemiology) had identified several causes of cancer but when, in 1918, Japanese researchers produced cancer on a rabbit's ear by painting it with tar, attention swiftly diverted towards animal experiments, and epidemiology lost favor. As British cancer expert Sir Richard Doll has pointed out, human observational data was commonly dismissed and carried little weight compared with that obtained by experiment, since it was confidentially believed that the mechanism by which all cancers are caused would soon be discovered.(35)

By neglecting epidemiology, doctors were unable to identify the underlying causes of the disease, so there was little solid basis for preventive action. This has been a serious mistake because despite success in treating some rarer forms of the disease, it is clear we are losing the war against cancer.36 Fortunately, interest in human observational studies has recently been revived, showing that 80-90% of cancers are preventable.(37)


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