Friday, May 7, 2010

President's Cancer Panel - Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk

The President's Cancer Panel released a new report called Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk- What We Can Do Now. I have read through the Preface, Chapter 1- Contaminants from Industrial and Manufacturing Sources , Chapter 3 Contaminants Related to Modern Lifestyle and Part 3 Taking Action. The report is over 200 pages.
It concludes that:
  • We need to determine the full extent of the environmental cancer risk
  • A national policy on environmental health is needed
  • Children are at higher Risk and should be protected
  • Continued Epidemiological and other Environmental Research needs to be done
  • Radiation exposure from medical source is under-appreciated
  • A Environment Health paradigm for latent disease is needed
  • Stronger regulations for Environmental Contaminants are required
  • Medical professionals need to consider occupational and environment when diagnosing illnesses
  • Workers with known exposure and the public needs full disclosure of knowledge about environmental cancer risk
  • Military needs to aggressively address toxic exposure it has cause
  • Safe alternatives to current chemicals are urgently needed
Then, I read through The Majority of Cancers are Linked to the Environment in the NCI's Benchmark Vol 4 Issue 3 from 2004. This page links to Cancer and Environment a paper by the NCI , NIH & NIEHS, At 47 pages it is a good read. It says "Most epidemiologists and cancer researchers would agree that the relative contribution from the environment toward cancer risk is about 80-90 percent. " The environment includes "...both lifestyle factors such as diet, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as radiation, infectious agents, and substances in the air, water, and soil." Tobacco causes 1/3 of all cancer deaths. Obesity/ inactivity causes 25-30% of all major cancers. The NCI paper goes on to say "The other causes of cancer (medicinal, occupational, viral, radiation) fall in about the same range of 10 percent or less ." And then we can't forget the ~ 10 % risk of cancer due to genetics.

The Panel's Report states that cancer prevention has focused on issues such as smoking and lifestyle changes. And rightly so because the largest cancer risks are due to tobacco, alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases ( think Human papillomavirus ) , UV rays and obesity.

The Panel's Report also states that currently in this country "instead of taking preventive action when uncertainty exists about the potential harm a chemical or other environmental contaminant may cause, a hazard must be incontrovertibly demonstrated before action to ameliorate it is initiated."

Everyone learned the scientific method in school- Research, Hypothesis , Experimentation , Conclusion. One can present a hypothesis but until you run experiments , gather data and reach a conclusion you can not say your hypothesis is true. This prevents us from jumping to conclusions. So lets make sure that what conclusions we draw are based on good scientific inquiry.

The Report also states that environmental risks should be higher. Again until we run studies we don't know if the risks are higher or not. So I strongly agree more research on the effects different chemicals and environmental exposures cause to cell structure and DNA would be beneficial. I feel any knowledge on what will trigger a cell to become cancerous is important data to have.

(I think my scientific background in Chem Engineering and Material Science is showing. )

Every Day is a Blessing!

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