A report in Science journal (January 2, 2015) rattled the world of cancer researchers by suggesting that random mutations – or “bad luck” – are the major contributors to cancer, often more important than either heredity or external environmental factors. Refutation was swift.
Scientists at the Silent Spring Institute quickly pointed out flaws and limitations of the report by C. Tomasetti and B. Vogelstein. On January 13 the prestigious International Agency for Research on Cancer stated that they strongly disagreed with the conclusions of the scientific report. I quote the IARC press release. “The past five decades of research have shown that most cancers that are frequent in one population are relatively rare in another and that these patterns vary over time. These observations are characteristic of many common cancers and are consistent with a major contribution of environmental and lifestyle exposures, as opposed to genetic variation (“bad luck”)….A majority of cancers worldwide are strongly related to environmental and lifestyle exposures. In principle, therefore these cancers are preventable; based on current knowledge, nearly half of all cancer cases worldwide can be prevented.”
Unfortunately, several national health organizations still do not mention that fact that people can take simple actions to greatly lower their chances of getting a cancer. The U.S. National Cancer Institute; The American Cancer Society; The National Wellness Institute; the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition; WebMed and Andrew Weil’s website make little of no mention that many cancers are caused by toxic chemical in the environment. Only the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, in its 2011 report on carcinogens, mentions that 70 chemicals are known to cause human cancers, and about 150 are anticipated to also cause cancers.
Of considerable concern to women is breast cancer. According the Silent Spring Institute (May 12, 2014) it is “the leading cause of death for American women between the ages of 30 and50.” “Only 5 to 10% of breast cancers are due to high risk inherited genes; 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are the first in their family to get it. A study funded by the Avon Foundation for Women identified 17 types of chemicals as high priority because they cause mammary tumors in animals and many women are exposed to them.”
The message is consistent: avoiding common high-risk chemicals (they are in everyone’s home) is a sensible thing to do to lower the risk of becoming a victim of cancer. And guys take note: prostate cancer is as prevalent as breast cancer and just as deadly.
Previous blog articles dealing with cancer were published on 11/8/2101, 7/13/2011, 1/4/2012, 6/16/2012, 7/2/2012 and 6/7/2014.
Readers of this blog will have picked up a hundred bits of information about the many toxic chemicals to which we are commonly exposed, and what actions they can take to avoid exposure to such toxics – thereby having healthier lives. However, in the hustle and stress of everyday life, it’s hard to remember these innumerable pieces of health information. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to give readers an overview. Fortunately, two prestigious organizations have provided overviews: The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and the Silent Spring Institute.
UCSF published online an excellent summary: Protecting Our Families from Toxic Substances. (www.prhe.ucsf.edu/prhe/toxicmatters.html.) They emphasize that the largest danger is to the unborn. “Developing fetuses, infants, children, pre-teens and teenagers are especially at risk. Being exposed to even small amounts of toxic substances during important times of development can lead to disease later in life.” They summarize things to do.
- Don’t smoke – obviously
- Use non-toxic personal care products; read the labels
- Use VOC-free paints
- Eat fish that are safe from mercury – see Monterey Aquarium list
- Don’t use pesticides in your garden
- Don’t spray bugs in the house
- Take off your shoes, to avoid tracking in chemicals
- Don’t dry-clean your clothes
- Pick your plastics carefully – don’t use PVC or PC containers
- Avoid foods contaminated with pesticides – see the list by Beyond Pesticides
- Test your home for radon – check with your state EPA office
The Silent Spring Institute gives over thirty specific recommendations for reducing exposure to harmful chemicals. (www.silentspring.org/tooclosetohome) Following is a summary; detailed information for each category can be found by clicking on the category.
- Cancer-causing phthalates were found in all homes tested.
- Several types of phthalates are found in many home products
- Plastics in food packaging can leach hormone-disrupting chemicals
- Eating fresh food lowers the body levels of BPA.
- Food packaging (e.g., cans) is a major source of BPA.
- Vinyl pillow protectors have high concentrations of phthalates.
- Residues of flame retardants are found in most homes.
- Everyday products can contain undisclosed, potentially harmful chemicals.
- House dust contains flame retardants, hormone disruptors and carcinogens.
- Consumer products with fragrances had the largest number of chemicals.
- Women who reported the highest use of cleaning products had twice the risk of breast cancer.
- Mold and mildew removers may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer.
In addition to these excellent sources of information, you can click on one of the tags in this site to go to blog articles dealing with the topic. Of course, for comprehensive information you can consult my book, Healthy Living in a Contaminated World, 2nd edition, available from Amazon.
Above all, don’t despair – being informed and taking simple precautionary actions can free your life of chronic debilitating diseases and greatly lower your chances of cancer.
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