Category archives: Breast Cancer

Brexit – no excuse for playing politics with our health.

As the country stumbles towards a shambolic and increasingly disastrous Brexit and just when we thought things can’t get any worse, a leaked government impact assessment report reiterates how the UK will be worse off after Brexit under every scenario studied. The assessment, called the EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing details the fact that almost every sector and UK region will be negatively impacted, with chemicals, clothing, manufacturing, food and drink being hardest hit, after we Brexit.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention co-organised a seminar with From Pink to Prevention last October, as part of Breast Cancer Prevention month. The seminar held in Portcullis House and sponsored by Helen Hayes MP highlighted our very serious concerns about our health and environment after Brexit, with a particular focus on breast cancer. The outcome of the seminar stressed the need to say no to deregulation, say yes to stay under REACH (EU chemicals regulation) including current and future EU chemical and pesticides regulation, and yes to the polluter must pay principle. We also need to enshrine the precautionary principle in any future chemicals policy after Brexit.  Videos available here.

On the 1st of Feb 2018 a debate is planned in the House of Commons to discuss amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which will enable us to stay under current EU chemicals regulation REACH, which is the very best way to protect our current and future health from the impact of toxic chemicals. There is no equivalent, or replication of REACH which will provide the same level of reassurance. Alternatives to, or duplicating current EU chemicals regulations will be too expensive, too complicated or too time consuming. Even the chemicals industry, which employs  500,000 people in the UK and contributes £15 billion to the economy, is very worried about abandoning REACH.

The best way forward, post Brexit, to protect our health and that of our families from toxic chemicals is to stay in REACH and in the single market.

From Pink to Prevention recently joined with other UK NGOs to write a letter to the Secretary of State for Health letter to the Secretary of State for Health  Michael Gove, expressing our serious concern that leaving the EU’s chemicals regulation REACH will risk the health of UK residents, resulting in damage to our natural environment, and incurring costs and competitive risks to companies operating in the UK. His response was ambigious to say the least and did not instill us with confidence that we would be adequately protected from exposure to toxic chemicals after Brexit.

So this is why we need to make sure on elected representatives support REACH and all it stands for. Please urge your MP via social media to attend the debate in the Westminster Hall at 1.30 pm and support the amendments put forward by Mary Creagh.

Brexit & Breast cancer: what does Brexit have to do with breast cancer?

Invitation to a Breast Cancer Prevention Month event – hosted by Helen Hayes MP. 26th October 11 am – 1 pm, Attlee Room, Portcullis House.

Speakers include: Helen Hayes MP, Zarin Hainsworth OBE, Chair NAWO, Helen Lynn, From Pink to Prevention, Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign, Nick Mole Policy Office Pesticide Action Network UK.

As we come to the end of Breast Cancer Prevention Month, we will be asking the question ‘what are the implications for breast cancer after Brexit?’ and exploring the answers. The chances are you’ll never have thought about breast cancer prevention in relation to Brexit. Yet they are linked. For example, our clean beaches and seas benefit from progressive EU legislation. Our health as citizens, consumers and workers most certainly has done and continues to benefit for EU legislation.

The European chemicals regulation (REACH) is a highly sophisticated, progressive pan-EU system to control toxic chemicals and, though not perfect, is the best in the world. At its heart is ‘the precautionary principle’ which means to take action to prevent harm, even if there is uncertainty. For the UK to be de-coupled from REACH would have a devastating impact on many aspects of consumer, workplace and environmental health and our economic wellbeing.

Please download the Brexit and breast cancer invite.

To reserve a place please RSVP to: Helen Lynn helen@frompinktoprevention.org Deborah Burton: 07779203455

Cancer all-clear for night work was based on ‘bad science’

An Oxford University study that concluded the classification of night work as a cause of breast cancer in women is no longer justified was based on ‘bad science’, top researchers have warned.

The large scale ‘meta-analysis’, published online on 6 October 2016 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), concluded “night shift work, including long-term night shift work, has little or no effect on breast cancer incidence.” It added the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) ranking of night work as a ‘probable’ cause of breast cancer in women “is no longer justified.”

But three of the most respected epidemiologists on night work and breast cancer have now said they “fully disagree” with this conclusion, noting a succession of methodological flaws in the research “invalidate” its conclusions.

Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Eva Schernhammer told Hazards magazine that given the Oxford study’s “bad science”, it was “not surprising” it found no effect. In a detailed criticism of the paper, published online on 15 December, she said the JNCI paper’s many shortcomings “preclude it from making the conclusion that there is no association between night work and breast cancer risk.”

Johnni Hansen, a researcher with the Danish Cancer Society, was equally unimpressed. “They base their conclusion on a poor study, but even worse is that their conclusion may hinder preventive initiatives for night workers,” he said.

Richard Stevens, of the University of Connecticut medical school, who has written influential papers on the topic with both Schernhammer and Hansen, was blunt. “Why was the paper written in the first place?” he asked.

The main cohorts in the Oxford study, which was financed by the Medical Research Council, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK), were “worryingly old”, with many over retirement age, and the follow up was “unusually short”, Hansen said.

The risk of women developing breast cancer appears to wane in the years after night working ends, so studying retired workers without recent exposures misses the point and the cancers, said Schernhammer. She said the higher risk is seen in women with long exposures ­ at least 15 years ­ early in their careers. Hansen added the authors behind the JNCI study should have recognised the possibility of ‘truncation bias’ in their analysis.

Night work was sometimes defined so loosely in the study participants, a single night shift might have seen a worker added to the ‘exposed’ group despite facing minimal exposure and risk. The JNCI paper also discounted case-control studies and those exploring the mechanism behind a possible association. According to Stevens, the JNCI meta-analysis “excluded case-control studies, of which there are many, for no good reason.”

He added that studies considering the biological mechanisms give a valuable insight into why and where you might look for an association. Understanding the process, something integral to his own research, was important, he indicated.

Stevens, Schernhammer and Hansen, together with Scott Davis, a professor of epidemiology in the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, are the stand-out epidemiologists on night work and breast cancer.

Not one of them was asked to review the paper. “We are the four epidemiologists who have been working for by far the longest on the epidemiology of night work and breast cancer,” said Stevens, who is dismayed the Oxford study, led by molecular epidemiologist Ruth Travis, found its way in to a high visibility journal like JNCI.  “Any of the four of us would have quickly noticed the severe flaws of the Travis paper and pointed them out to the editors of JNCI.”

He said it was “absurd” that the night work association with breast cancer was being dismissed on the back of a “troubling” paper by “a distinguished group of experienced researchers who should have known better.”

The JNCI study’s lead author, Ruth Travis, declined an invitation from Hazards to address the detailed criticisms of the study.

*   Ruth C Travis and others. Night shift work and breast cancer incidence: Three prospective studies and meta-analysis of published studies, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, volume 108, number 12, published online 6 October 2016.

This breast cancer month, we need to ask why are we still ignoring the elephant in the room?

Press Release
As we find ourselves mid-way through the global fundraising phenomena that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, From Pink to Prevention asks ‘are environmental and occupational risk factors for the disease the elephant in the room?’ 

Given breast cancer incidence has risen by 64% since the 1970’s in the UK, why are increasing efforts to draw attention to these confounding risk factors met with an unyielding lack of acknowledgement by the breast cancer establishment which includes the government, and breast cancer charities?

From Pink To Prevention (FPTP) and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention argues that everybody, especially women who are more at risk of breast cancer, have the ‘right to know’ the up-to-date science on breast cancer which, for decades, has been linking the escalating rates of breast cancer with exposures to toxic chemicals in our homes, workplaces and wider environment along with workplaces practices such as night shift work.

This October FPTP has produced a new Tool-Kit with interactive webpage, posters and action guide and with contributions from some of the leading experts, writers and campaigners from across Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, UK), USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines. It advocates that that it is time to move from pink to prevention, beginning by renaming the month Breast Cancer Prevention Month, as suggested by Gudrun Kemper from Breast Cancer Action Germany.

Lisette Van Vliet from the Health and Environment Alliance cites the call by the World Health Organisation for the recognition of the environmental and occupational exposures that cause cancer to be an integral component of cancer control worldwide. As Professor Andrew Watterson points out, assessments estimate that there are  at least 50% of breast cancers we can’t explain, so  a good starting place would be to remove the carcinogens, some 216 chemicals in regular commercial use, that have been linked to breast cancer.

From Pink to Prevention campaigner Diana Ward is disturbed to discover the failure of leading breast cancer charities to inform women about all the risk factors, and questions the exclusive focus on lifestyle factors (alcohol, exercise and smoking) and the 10% of cases linked to genetic factors, to the exclusion of the impact toxic chemicals are having on the health of every single one of us. Given that the vast amount of existing research into lifelong (womb to grave) exposures to environmental and occupational risk factors and the fact that breast cancer is a hormonal disease, this selective narrative could be seen as a barrier to official and public recognition of the right to know.

In her film ‘Endocrination’, Stephane Horel very effectively outlines the blocking by the chemical lobby of progressive legislation by the EU to try and control exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) – chemical which affect our body’s messenger system and so all aspects of life. EDCs have been linked to breast and other cancers as well as damaging our reproduction, growth and development. Studies have shown that these EDCs build up in human body tissue and can be detected in our blood, urine and breast milk, up to 300 different manmade chemicals have been detected in the human body.

Researchers Dr. Jim Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith are concerned that workplace exposures can take many forms and think we should use workers’ health as a barometer for the wellbeing of the whole of society. Toxic chemicals used and produced in the workplace find their way into our general environment where they pose a threat to people of all ages. Their investigation into occupational breast cancer in Canada showed an elevated breast cancer risk for women working in agriculture and metal working, with women in both automotive plastics and food canning having an almost five-fold risk.

Toxic chemicals linked to breast and other cancers or to other illnesses and diseases have no place in our bodies. It’s not just EDCs but a host of other breast cancer carcinogens as well as physical risk factors such as shift work and ionising radiation which need to be urgently addressed. Helen Lynn, Alliance for Cancer Prevention and  From Pink to Prevention campaigner, questions why, when we know about the links between these carcinogens and breast cancer,  we aren’t asking the question why environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer are not included and actioned in every cancer plan and strategy?

In Europe, Women in Europe for a Common Future’s executive director Sascha Gabizon asks why primary prevention (stopping the disease before it starts) is being ignored in favour of an unsustainable and costly epidemic? Survival rates continue to fall despite increased spending. Every 6 minutes a woman dies from breast cancer in the EU.  WECF, as the women’s organisation working on health and the environment, calls on the EU for a strategy on the primary prevention of breast cancer.

Forty years ago breast cancer was a disease of the wealthier nations but now half of all breast cancers are occurring in countries which are rapidly being industrialised, such as the Philippines. Danny de Meneses from the Philippine Breast Cancer Network is very concerned about the Philippines having the highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Asia and the highest increase of 589% among 187 countries over a 30 year period from 1980 to 2010. It has the 11th highest incidence rate of breast cancer in the world.

Hilda Palmer from the Hazards Campaign thinks some Trade Unions could be doing more by taking a proactive and preventive approach to cancer caused by work. Occupational cancer should be a priority, starting by addressing the 16% of occupational cancers through the empowerment of Safety Reps to use the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.  Safety Representatives need information and support on how to hold employers to their legal duty to prevent exposure to chemical carcinogens, and how to challenge and negotiate shift patterns for all workers and night work for women which increases the risk of breast cancer.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas thinks we still have some way to go before we take a precautionary approach to risks associated with breast cancer but quotes the US scientist Sandra Steingraber, who says “From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act.”

The global Pink Ribbon has become the most prominent global icon of a deadly disease according to academic and campaigner Grazia de Michele, who argues that  breast cancer is anything but ‘feminine, joyful and relaxing’. The Pink Ribbon, used to sell products, many of which themselves contain chemicals linked to breast cancer, range from cosmetics to food, jewellery, clothing and even cars and drill bits. As a result, it has ‘normalised’ the fact that thousands of women worldwide are diagnosed with and die from breast cancer. The original aim – to spur public opinion to demand political change – was deflected, some would say stolen – by a capitalist system where the combination of marketing skills and our own purchasing power can guarantee corporates unlimited ‘pink’ profiteering.

While we do not want to undermine those who gain hope, strength and a sense of community from pink ribbon fundraising, we do need to ask questions about the pink ribbon brand.  Patricia Kearns from Breast Cancer Action Quebec and adviser for the film ‘Pink Ribbons Inc’ notes the growing criticism of the trend for business to ‘cash in’ on the disease. “Pink-washing” means, on the one hand selling products to raise money for the disease while on the other, using ingredients in that product which linked to causing the disease. Breast cancer is a good cause for big corporations as women make 80% of the buying decisions but with less than 5% of the money raised spent on primary prevention and finding the root cause of the disease, questions need to be asked before hands are put into purses.

No one is saying that healthy lifestyles aren’t admirable, and encouragement to eat well and exercise is a positive thing but Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland questions why many healthy women still get breast cancer? Moira Adams bemoans the continual lecturing to women on how they are to blame for their own breast cancer with the almost exclusive focus on healthy lifestyle. This October CBCS’s message is:  Stop passing the buck to women and start taking responsibility for our polluted environment and the chemical cocktails we are subjected to on a daily basis.

Deborah Burton from Pink to Prevention campaigner thinks the ultimate responsibility for primary prevention should lie with government but that this is patently not the case. There are myriad ways in which the cancer establishment has proven its capacity in blocking any debate, recognition and action on the role of environmental and occupational factors for breast cancer. This means that as long as national cancer practices and policies continue to be so influenced by the cancer establishment, environmental and occupational risk factors will be excluded from government agendas.

Scottish Campaigner Dr. Morag Parnell asks why current trends are being slavishly accepted, given the role that industrialisation has played in its links to the growth of cancer diagnoses. We need look no further than the WHOs global cancer map. Lack of political will by governments to eliminate human exposure to such chemicals and substances already known to be carcinogenic is overlooked in favour of asking science and commerce to invent new disease detection and treatments. In themselves they are needed but they  do little to prevent exposures wherever possible, while  much money is made out of them.

Gayle Sulik from the Breast Cancer Consortium believes there is an urgent need to change the conversation around breast cancer and to ‘get real’ about this disease and to acknowledge that there is an ocean of misinformation, trivialization, and commercialization that is undermining the movement, and the breast cancer cause  itself. What’s more, pink ribbon hype diverts money and attention away from endeavours and ideas that have a greater chance of making a real difference to the diagnosed, those at risk, and the epidemic at large.

We have to acknowledge what women have already achieved in making breast cancer a national priority increasing awareness and funding for better treatment and care. But we need to move beyond the pink ribbon version of awareness. We need truth. Evidence. Action.

www.frompinktoprevention.org
www.allianceforcancerprevention.org.uk

Tel: 07960033687

info@frompinktoprevention.org

Notes to Editor:

  1. On line Tool Kit and posters: From Pink to Prevention and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention campaign has produced an online ‘tool-kit’ to help the wider public understand  the links between environmental and occupational risk factors and the obstacles that stand in the way of these risk factors being accepted and acted on by government, breast cancer charities and industry. The toolkit includes an interactive webpage, downloadable posters and a guide on how to be better informed and take action.
  2. Scientific Evidence From Pink to Prevention.
  3. EDM Early Day Motion on environmental and occupational risk factors . Caroline Lucas MP will table an Early Day Motion to Parliament calling upon the Government to act upon the urgent inclusion of environmental and occupational risk factors into all National Cancer Plans and strategies. More information on the FPTP website.
  4. FPTP is organising a Book Launch on the 31st of October in London of So Much to Be Done by Barbara Brenner. The event is support by Unison, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the Breast Cancer Consortium. More information here.
  5. Press release for October 2016.

New Resource: Cancer Hazards

A new resource on cancer and hazards available in the form of a continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research. The resource is produced by  Hazards, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

 

 

Alliance supports call to remove Pink Ribbon Blidfold and Ask the Big Question

Press Release
Remove the Pink Ribbon Blindfold and Ask the Big Question.

Embargo 10 am 1st October

16 international organisations and national groups have signed on to the statement prepared by From Pink to Prevention campaign, which calls on breast cancer charities everywhere to remove their pink ribbon blindfolds and ask why, despite all the money raised, more and more of us are getting this disease? The groups believe we are not getting the full picture on this breast cancer epidemic that has taken us from a 1 in 12 chance of a woman getting the disease in her lifetime in 1995, to a 1 in 8 chance today.

On October 1st, a social media action aims to urge breast cancer charities along with the people who raise funds for the cause each and every year to remove their pink ribbon blindfolds. This action draws attention to the Big Question: why do most breast cancer charities persist in refusing to acknowledge the role of environmental and occupational toxicants by ignoring decades of evidence up to the present day on the link between our lifelong (womb to grave) exposures to toxics and the escalating incidence of breast cancer?

Speaking for From Pink to Prevention Helen Lynn stated: “Seeking better diagnostics and treatment is not mutually exclusive with acting upon the evidence that shows how our profoundly polluted environment, homes and workplaces impact on our bodies and health. The ‘Precautionary Principle’ must be applied to this issue. All women need and deserve a full understanding of all potential risk factors for the disease that threatens women’s lives and health. Breast cancer charities should be leading on this, not refusing to acknowledge the evidence that connects it”.

Each October international funding in the hundreds of millions is raised for breast cancer ‘awareness’. Yet too many Breast Cancer Charities do not acknowledge the environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer, when the evidence is already abundant. Instead, prevention is focused solely on ‘lifestyle’ risk factors such as diet and exercise, while ignoring the potential 60% of breast cancer cases that remain unexplained by the commonly accepted risk factors alone. There is a deafening silence in breast cancer awareness campaigns about the role of chemical, environmental and occupational exposures for breast cancer. Internationally, less than 4% of the global research spending on breast cancer is spent on research into primary prevention of breast cancer and only 2% on exogenous (external) factors like chemical exposure.

Gayle Sulik from Breast Cancer Consortium points out: “The Breast Cancer Consortium highlights that diagnosis and treatment are important, but focusing solely on these aspects of the continuum of care — as most breast cancer awareness initiatives do– will not address the breast cancer epidemic at large.”

The World Health Organisation states that prevention (which is not the same as early detection) offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer. However, we do not see this fact reflected in most cancer plans and strategies. We, and the organisations that stand with us, want to see primary prevention (stopping the disease before it starts) equally addressed along with better treatment and care. We demand that those with the power to do so act on what we already know about the links between breast cancer and environmental and occupational exposures.

Gudrun Kemper from Breast Cancer Action Germany says: “As many millions of women are already hyperaware of breast cancer. There is no more need for any pink breast cancer awareness. What is now needed is a fuller more complete picture. Maybe it’s time to change the name of the month to Breast Cancer Prevention Month”.

Signatories

Alliance for Cancer Prevention: Helen Lynn – www.allianceforcancerprevention.org
Brighton Breast Cancer Action: https://brightonbca.wordpress.combrightonbca@gmail.com
Breast Cancer Consortium: Gayle Sulik – www.breastcancerconsortium.net
Breast Cancer Action Germany: Gudrun Kemper – www.bcaction.deinfo@bcaction.de
Breast Cancer Fund: Jeanne Rizzo, RN CEO and President
www.breastcancerfund.org
Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland: Moira Adams – http://www.challengebreastcancerscotland.org/
European Work Hazards Network: Kathy Jenkins – www.ewhn.eu
From Pink to Prevention: Di Ward – diward@frompinktoprevention.org
Hazards Campaign: Hilda Palmer – <hilda@gmhazards.org.uk>
Hazards Magazine: Rory O’Neill – editor@hazards.org
Onco Grrrls: oncogrrrls@gmail.com – http://oncogrrrl.blogspot.co.uk/
Philippine Breast Cancer Network: Danny Meneses – President – pbcn@iname.com – www.pbcn.org
Scottish Hazards Campaign: http://www.scottishhazards.co.uk
The Furious Amazons (Le Amazzoni Furiose): Grazia De Michele – graziademichele@googlemail.com
Tipping Point North South: Deborah Burton – <deborah@tippingpointnorthsouth.org>
Women in Europe for a Common Future: Sascha Gabizon – <sascha.gabizon@wecf.eu>

Notes to Editor:

  1. Overview of some of the scientific evidence on the links between breast cancer and environmental and occupational risk factors.
  2. Some key facts on the escalating incidence of breast cancer.
  3. Research paper: Sutton, P. California Breast Cancer Prevention Initiatives: Setting a research agenda for prevention. Reproductive Toxicology 54 (2015) 11–18.
  4. World Health Organisation – Asturias Declaration.
  5. A continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research produced. http://cancerhazards.org/
  6. Remove the Pink Ribbon Blindfold Petition.
  7. Information for action on removing the pink ribbon blindfold.
  8. Flickr group.

For More Information
Helen Lynn (UK) : +44(0)7960 033687
Deborah Burton (UK) : +44(0)7779 203455
Diana Ward (AU) : +61(0)400640144

info@frompinktoprevention.or

 

Greater risk of breast cancer from certain occupations, time to put breast cancer put of work.

A new report from Breast Cancer Fund called Working Women and Breast Cancer: State of the Evidence, uncovers elevated breast cancer risk for working women. The report discovered over 20 occupations which carry a higher risk of breast cancer compared to the risk for the general population. They are:

  • Nurses – Up to 50% higher risk than for the general population
  • Teachers – Up to double the risk
  • Librarians, lawyers, journalists and other professionals – Up to 4 times higher risk
  • First responders (police, firefighters, military personnel) – Up to 2.5 times higher risk
  • Food and beverage production workers – Up to 5 times higher risk
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists – Up to 5 times higher risk
  • Manufacturing and machinery workers – Up to 3 times higher risk
  • Doctors, physicians and other medical workers excluding nurses – Up to 3.5 times greater risk

Currently occupation is not considered a risk factor by most of the breast cancer charities. Shift work having only recently made it onto their radar. What are the implications for the non-consideration given to occupation by the cancer establishment? The continual focus on lifestyle risk factors will do nothing to stem the flow of breast cancer cases if occupational and environmental infleuncers are not taken into consideration. Have you ever been asked about your occupation when you visit your doctor? There is much we can do by way of prevention in the workplace using current legislation, much can be done by trade unions and activists to draw attention to this. The breast cancer establishment needs to recognise and address occupational breast cancer as a priority. Current cancer strategies need to focus on primary prevention of occupational and environmental risk factors. Not to do so would be to condemn thousands of women to a needless breast cancer diagnosis and death from breast cancer. We need greater emphasis on primary prevention, alongside better treatment and care if we are ever to see the end of the breast cancer epidemic.

Stirling breast cancer research shapes prevention policy with leading US health body

A ground-breaking resolution developed by University of Stirling academics on the elevated breast cancer risk faced by women in certain occupations has been adopted by the influential American Public Health Association (APHA), the largest public health organization in the world.

Dr James Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith of the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group (OEHRG) were involved as initiators and co-authors of the resolution, entitled Breast Cancer and Occupation: A Need for Action.

The adoption of the resolution by APHA is a significant step in public health policy, highlighting the importance of primary prevention and renewed commitment to occupational health research in the United Kingdom and North America, where breast cancer rates are among the highest in the world.

Dr Brophy said: “Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women across the globe but the majority of women do not have the known or suspected risk factors, therefore more attention to the exposures and hazards faced by women at work is required.” More here.

 

American Public Health Association Passes Groundbreaking Resolution on Breast Cancer and Occupation

APHA

The American Public Health Association has passed a groundbreaking resolution on breast cancer and occupation calling on the U.S. Surgeon General to declare the association between known classes of chemicals including endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and breast cancer while acknowledging that women working with these chemicals are particularly at risk. The declaration need to emphasis the precautionary principle and highlight the importance of identifying workplace and other environmental hazards that contribute to elevated breast cancer rates. The resolution was authored by Dr. James Brophy, Dr. Margaret Keith, and Dorothy Wigmore from Worksafe, Inc.

Last year, Dr Keith and Dr Brophy from the University of Windsor, Ontario and Prof Andrew Watterson from the University of Stirling (all members of the OEHRG group at Stirling University) won an international award for their work on occupational breast cancer with two studies looking at women’s breast cancer risk in specific workplaces.

The APHA resolution calls on the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes for Health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other relevant federal agencies to:

  • Focus more on the etiologic and mechanistic pathways of suspect chemicals and breast cancer and chemicals identified as, or suspected of being, linked to breast cancer, particularly EDCs and mammary carcinogens.
  • Identify and investigate the causes of breast cancer in groups of workers in suspect sectors and workplaces or those who work with known and suspected chemicals.
  • Initiate special emphasis hazard surveillance programs to identify sectors and workplaces where breast cancer-linked hazards are present.
  • All initiatives need to incorporate green chemistry, toxics use reduction and informed substitution principles in their purchasing practices, to contribute to prevention and reduction of breast cancer in a life cycle approach that recognizes the power of purchasers.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer diagnosis among women in industrialised countries, and rates in North America and Western Europe are among the highest in the world. But despite decades of working womens contribution to the workforce; women’s occupational health hazards continue to be mostly invisible, studied inadequately and infrequently.

This historic resolution should pave the way for urgent public health action world wide. We look forward to hearing the reactions  from our own public and occupational health agencies. What do we need to do to have similar action on occupational and environmental breast cancer here? When are we going to see the elimination of endocrine disrupting chemicals from our workplaces?

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention has been calling for a new Cancer Action Plan which specifically addresses environmental and occupational risk factors  for breast and other cancers with targeted actions for those risk factors and specifically allocated funding. The plan needs to encompass social, economic and gender inequalities and would need to be rolled out across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland taking into account all countries specific cancer plans and strategies.

The APHA deserves much credit for backing this resolution and following up on the reports and statements referenced in the resolution which want to see breast cancer stopped before it starts.

A copy of the resolution can be downloaded here.

Press Release: Alliance re-echoes call for Cancer Action Plan

For immediate release
15/10/13

We must face the stark realisation that our cancer plans and strategies are grossly outdated. Despite gains in treatment and detection still almost 900 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK and about half that number will die from the disease each and every day.

What is needed is a new Cancer Action Plan which specifically addresses environmental and occupational risk factors (1) for breast and other cancers with targeted actions for those risk factors and specifically allocated funding. The plan needs to encompass social, economic and gender inequalities and would need to be rolled out across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland taking into account all countries specific cancer plans and strategies.

Current cancer strategies and plans target lifestyle factors but not ‘life circumstance’ factors. (2)  Not only do strategies and plans ignore the social, economic and gender inequalities but also the interwoven and intrinsically linked environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer. There is little or no consideration given to the fact that lifestyle factors are influenced by economic and social aspects. By not addressing these confounding risk factors, strategies to tackle cancer seek to place the onus at the feet of the individual by focusing on individual instead of institutional action.

There are many barriers to action on the primary prevention of cancer; cancer is also caused by lack of political will (3). Despite high levels calls for inclusion of environmental and occupational risk factors in all cancer plans, the cancer establishment (those involved in determining the dominant thinking from government, industry and the cancer charities and organisations on cancer) continue to maintain the status quo. The onus needs to be shifted away from the feet of individuals to the feet of the cancer establishment to stem the rising incidence of a largely preventable disease. A more balanced approach is needed from the cancer establishment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) gives a very conservative estimate of up to 24% of all human diseases are at least in part due to environmental factors which includes chemical exposures. (4) Both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the WHO report that the incidence of chronic disease such as cancer is now greater than that of communicable disease. Twenty six different cancers alone have been linked to occupational and environmental exposures. (5)

The Alliance calls for a Cancer Action Plan which includes:

  • Environmental and occupational risk factors (determinants) addressed as risk factors for cancer in a specific Cancer Action Plan and included in all cancer plans and strategies with definitive targets for action and appropriate allocated funding.
  • Phase out of all IARC classified Group 1 carcinogens and Group 2A potential carcinogens.
  • Targeted toxics reduction across all environments, the lived, worked and the first environment, the womb.
  • Government support for green chemistry and engineering. Hazardous substances should be replaced with safe alternatives utilising the substitution principle.
  • Elimination of all toxic and man-made chemicals which are found in breast milk and cord blood.
  • Inclusion of Just Transition principles in all toxics use reduction initiatives and product lifecycle management analysis.
  • Elimination of the future use of all types of asbestos and ensure proper management of the asbestos currently in place to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related deaths. (6)
  • Readdress the unsustainable costs of cancer in terms of prevention.
  • Education on environmental and occupational insults for all cancer specialists.
  • Bringing cancer policy into the 21st century, by embracing new and emerging science.
  • Use of relevant language and ensuring that references to the environment and primary prevention are universal and defined in terms of stopping cancer before it starts.
  • Factoring in environmental justice principles and the right to a clean and safe environment into all cancer plans. (7)
  • Equal consideration given to precautionary and preventive approaches to cancer alongside better treatment and care.

Considerable work has been done over the last few decades to try and get recognition for environmental and occupational risk factors but with little movement from the cancer establishment. We can only speculate why this 21st century disease is still being addressed with an 18th century solution, and question who is financially benefiting from breast and other cancers, while continuing to investigate the long-standing inaction on this issue by the cancer establishment.

Background Document: Background document for Cancer Plan

The Alliance is a multi-stakeholder group which includes representatives from: NGOs, Trade Unions, environmental and occupational health organisations, public health advocates and civil society groups, working together on cancer prevention. We aim to; challenge the existing perception of control and treatment of cancer being the only way forward; get equal recognition for primary prevention and ensure that the cancer establishment acknowledges the environmental and occupational risk factors for preventable cancers.

@Cancer_Alliance
Tel: 07960033687


(1) Definition of environmental and occupational risk factors: Environmental and occupational risk factors are potential risk factors for cancer from exposure (including environmental, occupational and pre-birth exposure) to certain chemicals, substances, or particles or through ingestion, inhalation or absorption or to certain behavioural work patterns such as shift work which contribute to a cancer outcome by nature of their carcinogenic, mutagenic, or endocrine disrupting properties and abilities.

2. Prof. Andrew Watterson from Toxic Tour Report (London)  Summer 2013. (Soon to be on the alliance website).

3. Donner, L and Chernomas, R. The Cancer Epidemic as a Social Event. 2004  Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Manitoba.

5. Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer (New Evidence 2005 – 2007) Richard Clapp. Lowell Centre for Sustainable Production.

6. Zero Cancer/Occupational Cancer. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Global Unions.

7. Business and Human rights. A resource website. Why environmental issues are human rights issues.