George Johnson, a contributor to The New York Times, won for three insightful essays on cancer and some of the misconceptions about the disease. Hillary Rosner, a freelance writer who was one of the judges, said Johnson's pieces "are gorgeously written and offer fascinating perspectives on a topic we like to think we know a lot about."
Johnson described how cancer is vying to become the final killer as heart disease and stroke are beaten back; how researchers are finding that the same genes that guide fetal cells as they multiply, migrate and create a newborn child are also among the primary drivers of cancer; and how the connection between the foods we eat and "the cellular anarchy called cancer has been unraveling string by string." As Johnson noted regarding the food-cancer connection, "Trying to tweeze feeble effects from a tangle of variables, many of them unknown, inevitably leads to a tug of war of contradictory reports."
Laura Helmuth, science and health editor at Slate, an online magazine, praised Johnson's mastery of "a subject that people have a lot of misconceptions about." Johnson, who previously won the large newspaper award in 1999, said he began immersing himself in the mysteries of cancer while writing his last book and "the subject still has me in its grip." He wrote two of the award-winning pieces for his monthly "Raw Data" column in the Times.