Latest Cancer Risk Study Calls for Cohesive Environmental Policy

In the 2008-2009 report from the President's Cancer Panel, a medical doctor and a professor tell President Barack Obama that the incidence and mortality of cancer is lower than in year's past. However, a growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer has made the public aware of the "unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action."

Members of the panel are LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., the Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D., the Vivian L. Smith Chair and Professor Emerita at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The 240-page report describes the sources of exposures and outlines the failings of environmental cancer research, testing methods, and environmental regulation. "U.S. regulation of environmental contaminants is rendered ineffective by five major problems:

  • inadequate funding and insufficient staffing,
  • fragmented and overlapping authorities coupled with uneven and decentralized enforcement,
  • excessive regulatory complexity,
  • weak laws and regulations, and
  • undue industry influence.

The panel concluded that the United States needs a comprehensive, cohesive policy agenda regarding environmental contaminants and protection of human health.

In regards to research, the report said, "Single-agent toxicity testing and reliance on animal testing are inadequate to address the backlog of untested chemicals already in use and the plethora of new chemicals introduced every year. Some high-throughput screening technologies are available to enable testing of many chemicals and other contaminants simultaneously, but many remain to be developed to meet chemical testing needs."

Once those chemicals are tested, manufacturers may need to reformulate them to remove cancer-causing elements. But even those replacement, or green, chemicals require longitudinal study to ensure they do not pose unexpected health hazards, the panel added.

You can read the full report here: "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now.".

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