Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith (picture from the Windsor Star) and Prof Andrew Watterson.
Researchers from the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group (OEHRG), receive an International Awards from the American Public Health Association for their research which found that women working in certain occupational sectors face an elevated breast cancer risk.
The two studies were led by Dr James Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith, of Stirling’s OEHRG and the University of Windsor, Ontario, and co-author and Head of Stirling’s OEHRG, Professor Andrew Watterson.
The initial study published in Environmental Health found a 42 per cent increased breast cancer risk for any women employed in occupations where they were exposed to high levels of chemicals that were identified as either mammary carcinogens or endocrine disrupting chemicals.
The second qualitative study published in New Solutions provided additional evidence to support the findings of the first study.
The award is very well deserved and we are hugely grateful to the team of researchers for bringing some much needed clarity to the issue of occupational breast cancer. This work will be greatly appreciated by women who know the work they do is linked to their breast cancer and help with eliminating those chemicals we know are causing greatest harm to workers, but also to a lesser degree consumers and our environment. Well done all! Much congratulations.
For immediate release
We must face the stark realisation that our cancer plans and strategies are grossly outdated.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.
(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.
4. WHO/UNEP report on the State of the Science for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Report.
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.
Excellent document prepared for Falkirk local authority in reference to an ‘unconventional gas extraction’ application by Dr Morag Parnell, Mb.ChB, and Jamie McKenzie Hamilton, MSc. Document calls for a ban on all exploration and recovery of “unconventional gas”. Can be downloaded here. Potential Public Health risks associated with unconventional gas extraction.
FROM PINK TO PREVENTION:
Cancer Prevention ~ A Toxic Tour ~ London, Saturday 29th June 12-2pm
The Alliance for Cancer Prevention and Tipping Point Film Fund in association with The Organic Pharmacy have come together around a programme of events designed to increase the debate and public awareness on the links between breast cancer, the workplace and the wider environment. These events include film screenings of PINK RIBBONS INC with discussions and a ‘toxic tour’.
The Programme for theWalk
The route will take place in green spaces, shops, outside parliament and the Emmeline Pankhurst Statue in Westminster; it will take approximately 2 hours. Starting point is at Christchurch Gardens, Victoria by the Suffragette Statue for 12 noon. We will go to the South Bank afterwards for drinks. The tour will leave commemorative blue plaques to mark our visit illustrating that cancer prevention does not live in the related tour visit sites. RSVP to: email@example.com for places.
Download the information as a pdf here
From Pink to Prevention ~ what do we mean?
Despite the overwhelming presence of the Pink Ribbon and all its (global) attendant activities, environmental and occupational links to breast cancer struggle to be included in the debate. Why is this? What stands in the way of these critical elements being discussed?
As the disease reaches ‘epidemic’ proportions where more and more women face a diagnosis of breast cancer and far too many women lose their lives to the disease, are we doing the very best we can to ensure the debate addresses ALL possible causes of he disease? The time has come for all the key players – cancer charities, industry, drugs companies, the medical fraternity and government (whom many campaigners and authors describe as ‘the cancer establishment’) to recognise and acknowledge the role of environmental and occupational factors in this complex disease. This means doing something about it. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention wants to see environmental and occupational risk factors for breast and other cancers included and addressed in the National Cancer plans and strategies on cancer throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Alliance for Cancer Prevention
Formed in 2009, the Alliance is a multi-stakeholder group which includes representatives from; NGOs, environmental and occupational health organisations, trade unions, public health advocates and civil society groups, working 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. We work to ensure that the cancer establishment acknowledges the environmental and occupational risk factors for preventable cancers. Alliance members campaign on issues independently and together to work collectively and strategically to identify the interconnection between the environmental, occupational, social factors and the combined exposures.
Tipping Point Film Fund
TPFF supports social action, non-fiction films for cinema with an international reach. We are a not for profit co-operative raising donations from individuals, groups and organisations who believe in using the power of film to make change. Our roots are deep in the social action campaigning world where, to understand the big issues affecting all of us, you need to dive deep into the structures that underpin them. TPFF also partners with other organisations to organise events for the public, with a film and/or campaigning focus. It is supported by The Co-operative.
The Organic Pharmacy
The Organic Pharmacy was founded by Margo Marrone – a pharmacist and homeopath who first became aware of chemical overload on the human body during the 1990′s. She opened her first Organic Pharmacy store in London in 2002 to address this ever growing concern about harmful chemicals in cosmetics and built the business on the principles of honesty, integrity, purity, quality and green environmental thinking. Ten years on it is still a family run business and one that has supported campaigns addressing environmental links to breast cancer.
The ‘Toxic Tour’ Concept
No running, no fundraising- just a ‘what do you know?’ tour giving you the lowdown on why we need to tackle environmental and occupational links to a disease that affects an increasing number of women of all ages. The alternative tourist-health walk taks in parks, shops and outside parliament. It will give you a whole new perspective on how you can influence the key players in the breast cancer debate in the effort to get them to take on board a much ignored aspect – the environment around us, from our first environment the womb, through our work and lived environments. By address the issue of breast cancer prevention we will look at all cancers connected to environmental and occupational exposures.
The notion of the ‘toxic tours’ originated in the USA with tours held annually in San Francisco and the ‘bucket brigades’ which held tours to test the air quality around nearby industries which was harming community health. The tours advocate for civil rights and environmental justice. The first ‘toxic tour’ in the UK was organised by Helen Lynn and the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and held in London. Subsequent tours were held in Wales with WEN Wales and Scotland in conjunction with WEN Scotland. This is the second tour of this kind in London, linking environmental and occupational links to cancers in general and breast cancer in particular, again in London.
Why a ‘ toxic tour’?
Take an historic tour through the dark and murky back streets of breast cancer politics. Learn about why rates of the disease have risen by 90% over the last 40 years yet little is being done to prevent it. Gain a new perspective on why certain occupations carry with them an increased risk of breast cancer, up to 5 times the average rate. Hear about why breast cancer is a 21st century disease, an epidemic of our time and how it is related to not just our lifestyle – which accounts for less than 30%-50% of the cases – but is connected to a cocktail of toxic chemicals that begins through exposure in the womb and persists forever after – pre and post birth in our living and working environments.
Wonder why this 21st century disease is still being addressed with an 18th century solution, question who is financially benefiting from breast and other cancers and investigate the long-standing inaction on this issue by the cancer establishment. Boldly go where no one has gone before and understand what primary prevention means and how a life-long low level exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, carcinogens, and other chemicals and substances linked to breast and other cancers need to be more widely known about and acted upon.
Speakers and Contributors
Prof Andrew Watterson (University of Stirling)
Prof. Watterson is the Director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research, at the University of Stirling, Scotland where he also heads up the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group. His interests include occupational cancer prevention, fracking and biomass hazards, regulation of hazards and risks, costs of occupational diseases, PAR and lay epidemiology. He has acted as an adviser to the World Health Organisation and is on the editorial boards of IJOEH and Environmental Health.
Dr Ana Porroche-Escudero
Ana is a dedicated activist and educator on gender and health. She has initiated workshops and campaigns on gender violence ad is fascinated by the powerful combination of activism, art and innovative methods. She is a member of the Breast Cancer Consortium Advisory Board which is an international platform dedicated to changing the conversation on breast cancer through public and scientific discussions. She is currently organising a series of sessions on Breast Cancer Awareness in Brighton and recently showed the film Pink Ribbons Inc there along with other committed activists. She is an associate tutor at the University of Sussex.
Helen Lynn (Alliance for Cancer Prevention)
Helen has campaigned on cancer prevention since 1995 and is a freelance campaigner/ researcher at Wildcard Research. She worked as health Co-ordinator for 12 years at the Women’s Environmental Network and as co-director. Helen has worked at local, national and international levels on issues connection women’s health and the environment they live and work in. She was co-founder of the Alliance for Cancer Prevention, which campaigns for the recognition of environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer.
Hilda Palmer (Hazards Campaign)
Co-ordinator of Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, Chair of Hazards Campaign and facilitator of Families against Corporate Killing (FACK). Hilda organises the annual Hazards Conference which is the UK’s biggest educational and organising event for trade union safety reps and activists. Hilda works and campaigns tirelessly against injustice, and for equality, better health and safety at work, in the environment and community.
Maria Arnold (Client Earth)
Maria works at ClientEarth, leading the Healthy Air Campaign which combines work to engage communities at the local level with policy advocacy at a UK level. Previously Health Policy Analyst at the Sustainable Development Commission, she has worked to embed sustainable policy and practices within the NHS and Department of Health, with a particular emphasis on the link between health and the environment.
She has also managed environmental and public health projects at Southwark Council.
Nick Mole (PAN UK)
Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) is the only organisation that works on every aspect of global pesticide issues including threats to the environment and human health from their use. Nick is the policy officer with PAN UK. He works on UK and EU issues that includes trying to stop the use of bee toxic pesticides, encouraging London’s parks and green spaces to go pesticide free and advising the public on health issues related to pesticide exposure.
Deborah Burton (Tipping Point North South)
Deborah co-founded Tipping Point Film Fund in 2009 to provide support to theatrical feature documentaries, with integrated
campaign outreach on global issues and has worked on the breast cancer prevention issue for many years.
There are many ways to get more involved in learning about environmental and occupational links to breast cancer. Everything
from simply informing yourself better, through to thinking twice about the products you buy, to taking action, as a concerned
worker, consumer and citizen.
Read about the history, politics, economics, and social aspects of breast cancer and the health care system – Pink Ribbons,
Inc. by Samantha King is a good place to start. Breast Cancer Consortium Resources and Alliance for Cancer Prevention Resources.
Evaluate health news stories with a critical eye. Health News Review provides excellent criteria on what consumers need to
know in stories on treatments, tests, products, and procedures and why. Health News Review.
COSMETICS: Organic Pharmacy
Pay attention to what is in the products you buy—to check out cosmetics ingredients
WEN Careful Beauty list: www.wen.org.uk
CONSUMER AND OCCUPATIONAL: Alliance for Cancer Prevention
Find out about issues linking cancer to exposures in the home, workplace and wider environment
Hazards Website: www.hazards.org
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): www.edc-free-europe.org
ChemTrust / EDCs and Breast Cancer: www.chemtrust.org.uk
Think Before You Pink™, a project of Breast Cancer Action. Think Before you Pink
TAKE ACTION As well as getting more informed on all these issues you can also find out more about what your elected
representatives are doing and try asking some basic questions!
- Ask your MP why environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer are NOT included in all national cancers plans and strategies right across England, Wales, Scotland Northern Ireland
- Write to your MEP voicing your concern about the lack of proper regulation in connection with toxic chemicals such as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) linked to breast cancer in consumer products.
- Visit the recommended websites for vital information on how you can take action and follow up campaign information.
- Download information as PDF.
Disclaimer: Please note this tour is a purely voluntary initiative, no funding was received to run the tour or none of those involved contributed anything to the event bar their time. All the speakers are contributing freely of their time and the organisers are all volunteers.
A very big ‘thank-you’ to all our contributors taking part in our day’s events
A letter signed by a group of leading scientists urges action from the the WHO/UNEP/OECD through SAICM (Startegic Approach to International Chemcial Management) on endocrine Disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Why should you worry about EDCs? Currently they are not adequately controlled, in fact many remain unidentified yet they can affect life itself and our ability to live it in a healthy state. They affect our hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone, and can interfere with how hormones regulate every system in the body, via our endocrine system, even while we are developing in the womb.
We are at risk of exposure through everyday life lived in our homes, workplaces, schools and in the wider environment, through the manufacturing, use and disposal of products and the delivery of services. In fact we cannot escape exposure! And these chemicals have the ability to build up in our bodies and be passed on to the next generation.
So what can we do?
Support all calls for regulation of these chemicals and substances, especially now while legislation is under preparation in the EU.
Write, ring or email your MEPs and ask them as your elected representatives if they are voting to protect you health and the health of future generations, while you are at work, at home or in school.
Ask them if they really want to protect our environment and all the wildlife we share this planet with? Ask if products are EDC free? Lobby trade unions to support the call for an EDC free workplace.
The letter can be found here: http://ipen.org/pdfs/
For more information on EDCs visit www.edc-free-europe.org
The Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the Hazards Campaign joined forces to create a photo op outside the HSE meeting on Tackling Occupational Disease -Developing New Approaches, to draw attention to the lack of focus on women’ occupational and environmental cancers.
Piece from the Safety and Health Practitioner: here
Video of the demo: here