Cancer Group Focuses on Environmental Factors

Cancer 101: Cancer Explained

American Cancer Society Wants More Study Into Environmental Pollutants That May Cause Cancer

By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 28, 2009 -- The American Cancer Society is increasing its focus on environmental factors that may contribute to cancer, according to a new report the organization has issued. The report calls for new strategies to more effectively and efficiently screen the chemicals to which the public is exposed.

This research is just one part of ACS's comprehensive prevention program, which also includes activities related to tobacco use, nutrition, obesity and inactivity, excessive sun exposure, alcohol consumption, and certain chronic infections.

“Exposure levels to environmental pollution to the general public are typically far lower than the levels associated with the proven cancer risks shown in occupational or other settings,” Elizabeth T.H. Fontham, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society and co-chair of the committee, said in a written statement. “Nevertheless, these low-level exposures do cause us concern because of the multiplicity of substances, the fact that many exposures are out of the public's control, and the potential that even low-level exposures contribute to the cancer burden when large numbers of people are exposed.”

In the report, the authors acknowledge that work in this arena is difficult because of limited resources and scientific complexity.

Goals, as outlined in the report, include:

  • New strategies for toxicity testing
  • For occupational and community exposures to meet regulatory standards
  • Funding for research to identify and reduce carcinogenic hazards
  • Funding for the agencies that set and enforce environmental standards
  • A scientific approach at the agencies that set and enforce standards
  • Reduction of exposure to carcinogens, whenever feasible
  • Good communication with the public, acknowledging public concern, and providing credible information

SOURCES: Fontham, E., Cancer Journal, 2009, vol 59.

News release, American Cancer Society.

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