New Alliance Launched to Prevent Cancer

Embargoed: 00.01 am Tuesday 22nd December 2009 UK

Title: New Alliance launched to prevent cancer

The UK’s cancer establishment is ignoring the environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer, says the newly formed Alliance for Cancer Prevention – and in doing so ignoring thousands of the most easily preventable cancers. (1), (2)

Helen Lynn, long time campaigner and the facilitator of the new Alliance says, “There has been no movement from the Cancer Establishment on the environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer despite 14 years of accumulated evidence. It’s time for a robust voice to ask questions about this and other prevention issues so we want to announce the formation of this new Alliance.”

Despite the mountain of accumulative scientific research pointing to environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer playing a major role in the disease predisposition, onset and development, the cancer establishment is choosing to ignore this evidence.

The Alliance suggests that, what should be a debate about policy has become a debate about science. Manufactured doubt has been utilised by the cancer establishment to undermine the research which could lead to reductions in the cases of cancer by reducing environmental and occupational exposures. Government policy has been influenced to the advantage of polluters and the manufacturers of dangerous products. (3)

Both occupational and environmental Alliance member organisations voiced concern about the lack of consideration given to the Precautionary Principle before the introduction of any new industrial or household products.

Lack of action by the cancer establishment has rendered cancer policies ineffectual by focusing mainly on lifestyle factors. This fixation on ‘lifestyle’ risk factors means that cancer incidence will continue to rise given our exposure to cancer causing and promoting substances in the home, the workplace and in the wider environment.
“There’s a perception that cancer is a disease on the decline, but in fact the number of people developing the disease has reached record levels over the last decade,” says Professor Rory O’Neill of Stirling University. “Relying on cures that often don’t work and magic bullets that may never appear is a poor substitute for prevention – particularly given the UK’s relatively poor survival rates for many cancers.”
He added: “We estimate that tens of thousands each year have to endure potentially terminal diseases that could have been prevented by simple, affordable changes to the substances and processes used by industry.”(4)

At its first meeting in November the Alliance raised questions such as: how does the UK Government plan to respond to the European Partnership Against Cancer which states that: “Cancer is caused by many factors and therefore its prevention shall address on equal footing the lifestyle, occupational and environmental causes” (5) and, if the UK cancer establishment thinks the ever escalating incidence of cancer is acceptable, given its lack of acknowledgment for primary prevention. The fixation on the end point of the disease, and with detection, shows an acceptance of the status quo. Media and education politics means that the public is not being informed about the science, and therefore, cannot make informed choices or take action in connection with exposures.

The Alliance seeks to raise questions and point to the progressive work undertaken in other countries that shows just how far behind the UK cancer establishment is in thinking on cancer. One recent example is the resolution by the Endocrine Society on Endocrine Disrupting Chemical’s (EDC’s) adopted by the American Medical Association (AMA). (6)
The resolution called on the AMA to work with federal government to enact new federal policies to decrease the public’s exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. (7)

The new alliance aims to create a strong voice to question and challenge the media and education politics which means the public is not being informed about this science, and therefore cannot make informed choices or take action in connection with exposures.

Alliance members include:

GMB, Hazards Campaign, Integrated Health Trust, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, No More Breast Cancer Campaign, Pesticides Action Network (PAN UK), Scottish Hazards Campaign, Prof. Andrew Watterson & Prof. Rory O’Neill, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group. Stirling University, UNISON, UNITE, Breast Cancer UK, Women’s Environmental Network Scotland.

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Contact details: Helen Lynn, Alliance Facilitator. Mob:07960033687.

Notes to the Editor:
1. The Alliance is a multi stakeholder group which includes representatives from NGO’s, environmental and occupational health organisations, trade unions, public health advocates and civil society groups, to work together on cancer prevention. The Alliance aims to challenge the existing perception of control and treatment of cancer being the best way forward and get equal recognition for primary prevention and to ensure that the cancer charities acknowledge the environmental and occupational risk factors for preventable cancers.

2. The Cancer Establishment is a generic term for the cancer charities, the medical establishment and the government decision-making bodies on cancer.

3. Michaels, D. (2008) Doubt is Their Product. How industry’s assault on science threatens your health. Oxford University Press.

4. Hazards Magazine cancer pages. (Dec 2009)

5. European Commission, European Partnership for Action Against Cancer.

6. The American Medical Association.

7. The Endocrine Society. Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement. (Dec 2009) “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are substances in the environment that interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism or action resulting in adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. These chemicals are designed, produced and marketed largely for specific industrial purposes. They are also found in some natural foods and may become further concentrated as foods are processed.