While there have been some advances made in both early detection and treatment, clearly we need to rethink our battle strategy. The problem is that an estimated 90 percent of all cancer research dollars goes toward either treating the disease, or looking for a cure. According to the members of the Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) coalition, it's time we started focusing on cancer prevention. PCN is a coalition of Canadian environment, health, labor, and social justice leaders who have come together to put the prevention of cancer first in government policy, in delivery of health services, and in the public's mind.
Thanks to aggressive public awareness campaigns, we are all well aware of the cancer risks associated with smoking. What hasn't been public knowledge is that so much of what we're exposed to in our everyday environment also contains cancer-causing substances. There are carcinogenic chemicals in household products, cleaners, pesticides, food additives and much more. Routine emissions of radioactive matter from nuclear power plants are also an issue, as is medical radiation. The tragedy is that virtually all of these exposures can be reduced or eliminated.
"Most cleaners aren't clean at all," said coalition Co-Chair Liz Armstrong. "We have to start paying attention to those elements in our lives that we just take for granted." According to Armstrong, we're exposed to over 100,000 man-made chemicals that have been introduced since World War II. Since only a handful of these chemicals have actually been tested, we have no real way of determining what the ultimately health effects of exposure will be. In addition, there is almost no data on the synergistic or cumulative effect of multiple chemical exposures.
To demonstrate exactly how pervasive some of these chemicals are, Environmental Defence Canada conducted a body burden study of 11 Canadians from coast to coast in 2005. Each participant had blood and urine samples that tested for 88 known toxins. Sixty chemicals were detected in the combined results, including 41 known or suspected carcinogens, including benzene (found in beauty and personal care items, household and cleaning products) and formaldehyde (found in everything from plywood and carpeting and facial tissue, table napkins, and roll towels.)
And these are some of the known carcinogens. Just imagine the toxic soup that we're exposed to every day.
Anyone who has witnessed the devastation of cancer knows that this has to be stopped. What's needed is both the political will and a dedicated financial investment. Cancer is a multi-billion dollar industry. The pharmaceutical companies and other related industries benefit directly from the sale of cancer medications and other treatments. Small wonder that there is little corporate support for prevention initiatives. Just follow the money.
Which is why Coalition members are joining together to raise money to help prevent cancer before it starts.
This May marks the Third Annual Run, Walk and Roll for Cancer Prevention. The goal is to raise $ 150,000 (a truly modest sum when you consider the tens of billions of dollars that have gone into cancer research) to help educate all Canadians about the full scope of the cancer threat, share viable strategies, and urge action on all fronts. The funds raised will go toward a number of projects, including the Spring 2007 launch of the new book, Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic (New Society Publishers), a major cancer prevention conference planned for April 2007, and the ongoing support of numerous local cancer prevention projects, such as municipal pesticide-free by-laws, and green school campaigns.
For more information about The Third Annual Rock, Walk & Roll for Cancer Prevention, including dates and locations, to sponsor a runner, or to participate yourself, go to Stop Cancer.org
Sign the Cancer Prevention Declaration posted at Prevent Cancer Now
Information about Environmental Defence Canada's body burden study is found in the report, Toxic Nation.