Archives for category: Cancer

air pollution

From Bloomberg (by Nicole Ostrow):

Children whose mothers have an increased exposure to air pollution from motor vehicles while pregnant may have a higher chance of developing certain cancers, a study found.

Each increase in exposure to pollution from gasoline vehicles and diesel trucks was associated with a 4 percent higher risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, as well as increased chances of developing rarer cancers of the eye and of cells that form the reproductive system, according to data presented . . . at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington.

Research in adults has shown that carbon monoxide can damage the retina and have an effect on germ cells of the reproductive system, said Julia Heck, the lead study author. Today’s findings are the first to link air pollution with rarer pediatric cancers, she said.

“With childhood cancers, there’s a lot less known about the causes,” Heck, an assistant researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health, said in an April 5 telephone interview. “My results have to be confirmed in other studies. This is the first real study to report on these rare tumors.”

She said it is unknown why exposure to pollution in utero can raise childhood cancer risks.

Read entire article here.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has just completed an amazing series of reports on the cancer clusters in Western Pennsylvania.  Here is a sample from Day 1 of their 8-day series.

Numerous studies show that southwestern Pennsylvania has poor air quality and a yearlong Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigation has found that those pollution problems remain far from solved in communities such as Shippingport and Monaca, Bellevue and Sewickley, Masontown and Clearfield, Cranberry and Bridgeville, Pittsburgh and hundreds of others.

At the same time, the Post-Gazette’s review and analysis of state Department of Health mortality statistics shows that 14,636 more people died from heart disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer in the region from 2000 through 2008 than national mortality rates for those diseases would predict.

Those diseases have been linked to air pollution exposure.

After adjusting for slightly higher smoking rates in Pennsylvania, the total number of excess deaths from those three diseases is 12,833. That’s still a more than 10 percent higher mortality rate overall than would be expected in the population of approximately 3 million people in 14 counties, based on national risk rates for those three diseases.

More . . .

The Post-Gazette mapped the mortality rates for heart and lung disease and lung cancer for each of 746 municipalities in the 14-county region and found higher rates around many of the region’s 16 coal-fired power plants and 150 other companies considered by the EPA as major stationary sources of pollution emissions. High mortality rates also turned up irregularly in the “plume shadows” of the utilities and industrial sources, that is the downwind area where their emissions can be transported.

The mortality mapping, while not establishing any direct cause-and-effect link to any single or specific pollution source, shows associations that are consistent with accepted scientific health risk models and formulas used by the EPA and other pollution research scientists. It indicates that pollution may play as big a role in the region’s high mortality rates for those three diseases as Pall Malls, pilsners and pierogies.

“The maps do actually form some evidence that reinforces the literature that coal burning does have those effects,” said Conrad Dan Volz, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities and an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health.

He noted that the mortality rates from 2000 through 2008 are “lagging indicators” that could reflect past pollution exposure for the region’s population. But they might also show the health impacts of continuing exposure and that regulations aren’t as effective as they could be.

More . . .

On Sunday morning U.S. Steel finally shut down its Donora mills. By that afternoon, when a rainstorm blew into the valley ending the inversion and clearing the pollution, 22 people had died in Donora and the town of Webster, just across the Mon. Almost half of Donora’s 13,000 residents were sickened, and hundreds were evacuated or hospitalized.

“Dr. Clarence Mills, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati, said at the time that if the inversion had lasted another day, hundreds more would have died and life as we know it would not exist in Donora,” Dr. Stacey said.

In the months that followed, an additional 50 people died in Donora over the number that would normally be expected. And the town’s mortality rate remained significantly higher than that of neighboring towns in the Mon Valley for a decade.

U.S. Steel refused to accept blame at the time and still has not turned over to researchers its archival data related to the fatal smog.

Lawsuits totaling $4.5 million in claims were filed by more than 100 Donora residents against U. S. Steel. All were settled in 1951 for $256,000, according to a new book, “The Polluters,” written by Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter.

“No one got rich,” said Dr. Stacey. “After the lawyers were paid, most people had enough to buy a television set.”

More . . .

Although FirstEnergy sent workers through the affected communities to power-wash the ashy black residue from the exterior of homes, outdoor deck and lawn furniture and vehicles, and cleaned indoor carpeting — and did so at Gracie’s grandparents’ home in Raccoon Township — it did not remove the sand pile where she continued to play daily, and, as was her wont, put things in her mouth.

Then, the lawsuit states, on Aug. 7, 16 days after what had become known in the community as the “black rain event,” FirstEnergy notified local officials and made public announcements recommending that farmers not allow livestock to graze in fields carpeted with the soot and that residents not use or eat from their home gardens for a year. In the weeks that followed, while company workers mowed the affected hay and yards, and harvested and paid for backyard garden produce, Gracie’s long brown hair was falling out in big clumps.

More . . .

Dr. Robert Lustig (Sugar: The Bitter Truth) speaks at Yale’s Peabody Museum on the policy and politics of the “Sugar Pandemic.” Hosted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

While we’re lucky that we no longer make PCBs, there are so many other chemicals in our lives, and we don’t really know what their cancer-causing potential is.

Breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns. Countless women and men walk, bike, climb and shop for the cure. Each year, millions of dollars are raised in the name of breast cancer, but where does this money go and what does it actually achieve? Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a feature documentary that shows how the devastating reality of breast cancer, which marketing experts have labeled a “dream cause,” becomes obfuscated by a shiny, pink story of success.

From The DailyMail (quoting Upstream Expert Dr. Ana Soto):

Cancer fears have grown over a chemical widely used in plastic packaging and food-can linings after new research showed that it affected the development of monkey breasts.

Various studies have linked Bisphenol A (BPA) to breast cancer – and now teams at Washington State University and Tufts University have added weight to these findings.

They found that foetal exposure to the plastic additive alters mammary gland development in primates.

Lead author Patricia Hunt said: ‘Previous studies in mice have demonstrated that low doses of BPA alter the developing mammary gland and that these subtle changes increase the risk of cancer in the adult.

‘Some have questioned the relevance of these findings in mice to humans. But finding the same thing in a primate model really hits uncomfortably close to home.’

For the research the structure of newborn mammary glands from BPA-exposed and unexposed female rhesus macaques were compared.

Pregnant monkeys were fed a piece of fruit containing a small amount of BPA each day during the gestational period corresponding to the human third trimester of pregnancy, resulting in blood levels of BPA comparable to those of many humans today.

The researchers found that, at birth, the density of mammary buds was significantly increased in BPA-exposed monkeys, and the overall development of the mammary gland was more advanced compared to unexposed monkeys.

Previous studies have shown that exposing rodents to tiny amounts of BPA can alter mammary gland development, leading to pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions when the animals exposed in utero reach adult age.

The researchers said the primate research makes them confident that the rodent mammary gland is a reliable model to study developmental exposures to chemicals like BPA that disrupt a mammal’s estrogen activity.

Tufts University School of Medicine researcher Ana Soto said: ‘This study buttresses previous findings showing that foetal exposure to low xenoestrogen levels causes developmental alterations that in turn increase the risk of mammary cancer later in life.

‘Because BPA is chemically related to diethylstilbestrol, an estrogen that increased the risk of breast cancer in both rodents and women exposed in the womb, the sum of all these findings strongly suggests that BPA is a breast carcinogen in humans and human exposure to BPA should be curtailed.’

The research appears in the latest Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.


From :

Is eating organic more expensive? In the long-run the answer would be NO. Synthetic pesticides or fertilizers used on vegetables and fruits affects our health. Pesticides have demonstrably elevated rates of asthma, leukemia, and prostate cancer.


Animation on how mice are used to study changes in DNA that could also occur in humans and eventually lead to cancer. The genetic similarity of mice to humans accounts for mice being a good experimental model to study cancer. Mouse models that mimic human disease play a vital role in understanding the etiology (cause and origin) of cancer. Results of mouse model studies lend evidence toward the next step in biomedical research that leads to early detection of cancer, new cancer drugs, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy.]

From (AP):

Arline MacCormackfirst heard about DES from her mother when she was 17. Three decades later, MacCormack believes that the drug her mother took to prevent miscarriages caused her to develop breast cancer at age 44.

MacCormack, of Newton, is one of 53 women from around the country who are suing drug companies who made and promoted DES for millions of pregnant women from about 1938 to the early 1970s. In 1971, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told doctors to stop prescribing DES for their pregnant patients after a study found that taking DES during pregnancy appeared to increase the risk of developing a rare vaginal cancer years later for DES daughters in their teens and 20s.

DES, or diethylstilbestrol (dahy-eth-uhl-stil-bes’-trawl), is a synthetic estrogen that was prescribed to millions of women in the United States, Europe and other countries to prevent miscarriages, premature birth and other problems.

The case in Boston is being closely watched by DES daughters around the country. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed since the 1970s alleging links between DES and cervical and vaginal cancer, as well as infertility problems. Many of those cases were settled before trial. The Boston case is believed to be the first major litigation alleging a link between DES and breast cancer in DES daughters over the age of 40.

MacCormack, now 50, said she was stunned when she was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago after having mammograms every six months since she turned 40 because she had had several benign cysts removed over the years.

“The characteristics of my cancer were for women over 60 typically. It wasn’t the type of cancer a 40-year-old or a 44-year-old woman gets,” said MacCormack.

“When I read the research that’s been done, I found I had more chance of getting it because my mom took DES,” she said.

The women’s lawyers say their case is supported by a recent study that suggests that breast cancer risk is nearly doubled in DES daughters over the age of 40. The average woman has about a 1 in 50 chance of developing breast cancer by 55. The study, led by Dr. Robert Hoover, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, found that the chance for DES daughters is 1 in 25.

The lawsuit alleges that 14 drug manufacturers — including Eli Lilly and Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.— withheld from doctors and the FDA reports that showed DES did not prevent miscarriages and raised serious questions about the safety of the drug.

“This drug, DES, was the biggest human experiment of quackery in the history of medicine,” said Aaron Levine, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who filed the Boston lawsuit and represents another 18 DES daughters making similar claims.

Representatives and lawyers for Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In court and in public documents, the companies argue that a firm link between DES and breast cancer has not been established and that the DES daughters who are suing them have not shown that DES caused their cancers.

“We believe these claims are without merit and are prepared to defend against them vigorously,” Eli Lilly said in its most recent annual report.


Image from Flickr.

Roger Magnusson, Lawrence O. Gostin, and David Studdert recently posted their paper, “Can Law Improve Prevention and Treatment of Cancer?” on SSRN:

The December 2011 issue of Public Health (the Journal of the Royal Society for Public Health) contains a symposium entitled: Legislate, Regulate, Litigate? Legal approaches to the prevention and treatment of cancer. This symposium explores the possibilities for using law and regulation – both internationally and at the national level – as the policy instrument for preventing and improving the treatment of cancer and other leading non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In this editorial, we argue that there is an urgent need for more legal scholarship on cancer and other leading NCDs, as well as greater dialogue between lawyers, public health practitioners and policy-makers about priorities for law reform, and feasible legal strategies for reducing the prevalence of leading risk factors. The editorial discusses two important challenges that frequently stand in the way of a more effective use of law in this area. The first is the tendency to dismiss risk factors for NCDs as purely a matter of individual ‘personal responsibility’; the second is the fact that effective regulatory responses to risks for cancer and NCDs will in many cases provoke conflict with the tobacco, alcohol and food industries. After briefly identifying some of the strategies that law can deploy in the prevention of NCDs, we briefly introduce each of the ten papers that make up the symposium.

You can download the paper for free here.

From Orlando Sentinel:

More than three dozen former factory workers have settled their multimillion-dollar five-year legal battle against Siemens Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. over toxins they allege the companies carelessly dumped into drinking water, causing them to develop cancer.

“I’m just glad it’s over with,” said Gladys Elder of Sanford, a 32-year employee at the plant at 400 Rinehart Road in Lake Mary that manufactured telecommunications equipment.

Elder, 70, developed kidney cancer a decade ago, and she, like dozens of others, accused the plant’s owners of making her sick by carelessly handling solvents.

Plant employees used toxins, including trichloroethene (TCE), to manufacture and clean circuit boards and other equipment.

In 2001, Siemens AG, the plant’s then-operator, ordered employees to stop drinking the water. That’s because it had discovered TCE, a chemical linked to cancer in laboratory animals and suspected of doing the same in humans, in the plant’s tap water.

Workers had used TCE from the time the plant opened in 1968 . . . according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Workers had poured the used solvent into 55-gallon drums that eventually became rusty and leaky and at times poured it down drains and sinks, according to the suit.

It then seeped into groundwater beneath the plant and was pumped back inside, where employees used it to wash their hands and brew coffee.

Before the plant closed in 2003, it was operated by five companies or business ventures, including United Technologies Corp., Marconi Communications Inc. and Siemens.

Each was a defendant in the suit.

* * *

Many of the employee-plaintiffs died while the suit was pending, Elder said.


From Pittsburgh City Paper, an outstanding article (the second in a series) touching on many of the themes behind Upstream

In October 1996, Lance Armstrong, then 25 and the world’s seventh-ranked professional bicyclist, learned he had testicular cancer. The cancer had spread to his lungs, brain and abdomen. He was given a 40 percent chance of survival.

“I intend to beat this disease,” he told reporters.

Armstrong survived, of course — the brain surgery, the grueling rounds of chemotherapy — and went on to seven straight Tour de France titles.

Armstrong’s recovery was received joyously. Headlines like “With Each Day, a Triumph” were standard; thousands of fan letters and emails arrived weekly. In 1999, Armstrong told Bicycling magazine, “The cancer — I owe my life to it. … I wouldn’t be married. I wouldn’t have a kid on the way. And I’m a [better] rider.”

News accounts noted everything from testicular cancer’s predilection for young men to survival tips from psychologists. But readers were rarely, if ever, informed that testicular cancer was becoming increasingly common. In the 20 years preceding Armstrong’s diagnosis, its incidence in the U.S. had risen by 41 percent. And it has kept rising: By 2007, testicular cancer was 75 percent more common than in 1975. And no one knows why.

Armstrong himself seemed disinterested in what causes testicular cancer. While his Lance Armstrong Foundation, created in 1997, has distributed countless yellow “Livestrong” wristbands, like most cancer initiatives it’s all about supporting cancer sufferers, not pursuing root causes.

Or, as Armstrong said shortly after his diagnosis: “I don’t want to waste my time saying, ‘Why me?’ I have a problem and I want to fix it.”

* * *

It’s hard to believe we’d need to argue that preventing illness is preferable to trying to cure it. It’s as if we’d abandoned sewage-treatment systems because we have antibiotics for cholera.

And curing cancer is proving much harder than developing antibiotics.

Forty years into America’s “war on cancer,” you’re 50 percent more likely to get cancer than when it began. Childhood cancer rates have grown steadily for decades, according to National Cancer Institute statistics, and cancer is rising in people under 50. Yet the Institute’s own funding patterns emphasizes new treatments over prevention.

For instance, in 2010, the National Cancer Institute spent $364 million on prevention programs — and $1.16 billion on treatment research. (Asked about research priorities, an NCI spokesperson said “grants are awarded on a competitive basis” and research categories “[don’t] fully capture the complete range of research objectives” because some research applies in multiple categories.)

Treatment is likewise the focus of the vast majority of funds raised by your average “race for the cure” fundraiser.

* * *

So why not put more effort into prevention?

It’s not a new question.

In his controversial 1979 book The Politics of Cancer, Samuel Epstein, a professor of environmental medicine, asserted that “cancer is caused mainly by exposure to chemicals or physical agents in the environment.” If those chemicals were removed, he argued, cancer would be “essentially preventable.” But he charged mainstream experts with downplaying the role of industrial carcinogens — and with pursuing lucrative treatments for cancer at the expense of prevention. Epstein cited ties between what he called “the cancer establishment” and the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries; in the 1980s, for instance, the NCI Executive Cancer Panel was chaired by oil magnate Armand Hammer.

Epstein’s attacks were roundly criticized by the medical establishment. But little has changed, says epidemiologist Devra Davis, author of The Secret History of the War on Cancer.

* * *

Popular culture too prefers “beating” cancer to sussing its source: For every movie about what carcinogens do, like Erin Brockovich, there are 10 Brian’s Songs or 50/50s, celebrating cancer’s noble victims or plucky survivors.

Public officials follow suit. When President Richard Nixon was pushing the National Cancer Act, in 1971, he issued a 1,300-word statement. While it briefly acknowledged evidence that “human cancers can be prevented by avoiding exposure to certain chemicals,” just 100 words of the statement concerned prevention. (Seven years after the surgeon general’s announcement that cigarettes cause cancer, Nixon’s statement didn’t even mention smoking.) Nixon’s repeated references to a “cancer cure,” meanwhile, signaled the chief goal.

Critics say those priorities are no accident. As difficult as curing cancer might be, it could be harder to reduce the malignant growth of special interests.

More scientists are now, like Epstein, raising alarms that synthetic chemicals drive cancer. Consider testicular cancer. Studies have linked exposure to hormone-mimicking chemicals (like those found in some pesticides and plastics) to reproductive abnormalities including undescended testicles, a cancer risk factor. Meanwhile, a 2008 study suggested that a byproduct of the pesticide DDT (still found in most Americans’ bloodstreams) increases the risk of testicular cancer.

And DDT is just one of at least 84,000 synthetic chemicals. Some are known carcinogens; the vast majority remain untested for health effects.

But passing laws to reduce exposure to such chemicals is difficult, partly because of the chemical industry’s political influence. According to, the industry employs nearly 500 federal lobbyists and regularly spends $50 million a year on lobbying; top spenders this year include Dow Chemical, the American Chemistry Council and DuPont Co.

Epidemiologist Davis says she and other researchers who confront industry face threats to their funding or careers. Her Secret History of the War on Cancer documents the derailing of several researchers who explored tobacco or industrial pollutants. She cites, for instance, Wilhelm Hueper, whose pioneering research into industrial carcinogens got him fired by DuPont; he later worked for the National Cancer Institute, where industry pressure hamstrung his efforts until he left, in 1968.

When concerns about chemicals do arise, Davis observes, business interests take a page from the tobacco industry: They tout bought-and-paid-for studies showing their products are safe, and question the science behind the alarm bells.

Consider BPA, a plastics additive that’s caused cancer and reproductive problems in lab animals. For years, industry fought state-level bans on BPA in products like baby bottles and sippy cups; in 2009, the American Chemistry Council said that California’s effort would “needlessly restrict consumer products deemed to be safe by scientific experts worldwide.” In fact, there was some scientific concern about BPA, and a sign-off by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was later revealed to have been heavily influenced by industry input. Then, just this past October, the ACC announced that manufacturers had quietly removed BPA from such products. “[T]hese products are not on the market. There is no need for parents or consumers to worry about them,” said an ACC spokesman.

Davis now runs the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Health Trust. “Our motto is ‘Making Prevention the Cure,'” she says. “No matter how much money we spend on finding and treating cancer, no matter how good we get at treating it … if we don’t reduce the demand, we’ll never win.”

In the meantime, mystery chemicals continue to proliferate, at a clip not even Lance Armstrong could outrace.

* * *


Image from Flickr.

From Pittsburgh City Paper, an outstanding article (the first of a series) touching on many of the themes behind Upstream:

In June 2010, a dermatologist cut a weird growth from my left wrist. The growth was wart-sized, grape-purple and stippled black. It was sensitive to the touch and bled when scratched.

Two weeks later, the doctor told me the tumor was malignant — melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The doctor also told me this:

You’re part of an experimental generation.

She meant that in the past 30 years, she’d seen an alarming rise in skin cancer, and not just among older people. (I was 45.) Despite the advent of sunscreen and the fact that people don’t go outside as much as they used to, she’d even been seeing more moles — possible precursors to melanoma — on children.

One or more risk factors for melanoma, she reasoned, must have changed. My doctor’s guess: the human-caused depletion of atmospheric ozone, which allows more ultraviolet light — a leading melanoma risk factor — to reach our skins.

But other variables have also changed in recent decades, including the chemicals we’re exposed to through air, water and food. How much might exposure to these be increasing the risk for melanoma and other forms of cancer?

Mostly, the answer is: We really don’t know.

And that’s the experiment, in which we’ve become the test subjects — without our knowledge or consent.

* * *

My doctor’s language, inevitably, recalled Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Writing in the years when America first went whole-hog for synthetic chemicals, Carson warned that we were subjecting humanity and nature to a vast, uncontrolled experiment.

In 1964, Carson herself died of cancer. And in a decade that saw rising cancer rates and death tolls, fear of the malady metastasized. On Dec. 23, 1971, President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, pledging to make the “conquest of cancer a national crusade.”

In the next several weeks, you’ll likely see 40th-anniversary reports and pronouncements on how this epic initiative — inevitably dubbed the “War on Cancer” — is going. Most will gauge progress toward keeping cancer patients alive, or toward the “cancer cure” that Nixon sought. You’ll likely hear disappointment that cancer remains uncured, countered with hopeful tidings of new gene-based therapies.

But here’s a fact you probably won’t hear much: You’re actually more likely to get cancer than when the War on Cancer began.

In announcing his “conquest,” Nixon noted that cancer struck one in four Americans. Four decades later — and after hundreds of billions of dollars in research, radiation and chemotherapy — the figure has risen to about two in five. Nearly half of all men, and more than a third of all women, will get cancer. That’s about 1.6 million new diagnoses each year.

And for most major types of cancer, according to National Cancer Institute statistics, incidence remains higher than it was in the early ’70s. While record-keeping in the early 1900s was less authoritative, cancer registries suggest incidence also rose steeply for most of the past century; by one estimate, it rose 85 percent between 1950 and 2001 alone.

Meanwhile, between 2003 and 2007, the incidence of liver cancer rose for men, along with thyroid cancer among women. Melanoma climbed for both genders; so did non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia and cancers of the kidney and pancreas.

The news isn’t all bad: Incidence of two major types of cancer, colorectal and cervical, have dropped steeply in recent decades, largely because of improved screening. And cancer now kills less surely. Death rates for the most common forms — lung, breast, colorectal, prostate — have fallen in the past 20 years.

Even so, 570,000 Americans die of cancer annually — and the overall cancer death rate is only about 6 percent lower than it was in 1950. Our boat is still leaking; we’re just bailing faster.

This trend of “less death” and “more cancer” is starkest among children. Forty years ago, a child with cancer faced a virtual death sentence. (I had a sister who died of neuroblastoma, in 1971, at age 5.) Today, most child cancer victims survive, and death rates keep dropping. But incidence keeps rising — by about 0.6 percent annually over the past 20 years, mostly driven by leukemia. An estimated 7 million American kids under age 10 are now living with cancer.

Nor is there any easy explanation for dramatic rises in cancers that strike primarily young adults, like testicular cancer. While cancer incidence is dropping in people over age 65, probably because of smoking’s long decline, it’s rising in people under 50 … despite smoking’s long decline.

* * *

Yet the increase in cancer rates isn’t confined to specific regions or occupations. Increasingly, researchers are interrogating the environment as a cause of cancer — and suggesting that cleaning up the environment may help prevent it.

After all, the past century’s rise in cancer has been paralleled by the rise in synthetic chemicals and other pollutants in everyday life. In the years following World War II, plastics took over for wood, metal and glass. And from 1950 through 1975, pesticide production — Rachel Carson’s key concern in Silent Spring — grew sevenfold, to 1.4 billion pounds a year.

In 2008, according to an EPA inventory, there were some 84,000 synthetic chemicals on the market. (There are surely more today.) Most are made from coal, oil or natural gas. But only a handful of these substances have ever been tested for health effects. We’re in contact with many of them on a daily basis. They’re in diesel soot and they’re in shampoo. They reach us through the packaging that contains our food, the pesticides on apples and the flame-retardant fabric woven into children’s car seats.

Some of these chemicals accumulate in our bodies. Others are shed into the environment, where they may persist for decades.

A growing array of studies, for example, link cancers including breast, prostate, leukemia and multiple myeloma to pesticide exposure. I was personally intrigued that a 2007 study from Italy tied melanoma to household pesticide use.

Perhaps the most surprising survey was Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now. The April 2010 report was issued by the President’s Cancer Panel, chaired by two appointees of President George W. Bush. The widely publicized report cited “a growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer.”

* * *

Cancer patients, understandably, care less about why there’s cancer than how to treat theirs. * * * But in this four-part series, I’m less interested in the War on Cancer everyone will be talking about. It feels like the War on Terror, or the War on Drugs: a hugely expensive effort to fix a problem whose causes we’re ignoring.

What I want to know is, why are we getting sick? Why has melanoma incidence tripled since the 1970s? Why is thyroid cancer rising even faster? Why are men younger than me increasingly getting tumors in their testes? Why are babies getting more cancer?

And in a country where you can’t swing a surgically excised lymph node without hitting someone’s Race for the Cure, why does no one ever hold a Race for the Cause?

* * *


Image from Flickr.

From NBC News (11/22/2011):

From :

A report released by the Breast Cancer Fund documents the presence of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in canned foods marketed to children. Every food sample tested positive for the chemical, with Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story soups testing the highest.

Exposure to BPA, used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans, has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Childhood exposure is of concern because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children’s hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later‐life diseases.

“There should be no place for toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems in our children’s food,” said Jeanne Rizzo, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund. “We hope this report will shine a spotlight on this issue and encourage companies to seek safer alternatives.”

From the Provo Daily Herald:

The arsenic exposure risk in Fairfield is official, the health danger real.

Those who live in the Cedar Valley town stand a higher risk of getting some cancers, nerve damage and brain injury with exposure to contaminants from old mine tailings over an extended period of time, according to a new Utah study.

“I think this report will go a long way toward helping us get the visibility we need to get some help for this problem,” said Mayor Michael Burch at presentation of the study on Nov. 10 at the Historic Fairfield Schoolhouse.

Residents had some of their arsenic fears confirmed, other worries put to rest and questions answered by representatives from the Environmental Epidemiology Program and Utah Department of Environmental Quality as the agency representatives presented their public health assessment.

Fairfield residents anxiously looked at the map to identify their homes and farmlands and examined copies of the report at the town hall meeting.

Gardening, a popular pursuit in Fairfield, could potentially increase health risks both from exposure to the arsenic in the soil and from eating vegetables that have absorbed the arsenic in areas where the garden soil is contaminated. One of the community questionnaire tables showed that a majority of Fairfield residents have gardens, many watered with irrigation water, so it is important for residents to identify the properties and ditches where contamination levels are high.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 45. I’ve lived here all my life and can’t help but think that the contamination is a factor,” said David Hansen, Fairfield resident and avid gardener.

“I can’t make the statement that it’s a direct result, but I can say that, based on this assessment, there is a risk,” said Dr. Craig J. Dietrich, a Utah Department of Health toxicologist.


Image from Flickr.

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