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News » Filed under: Cancer Risks/Causes

ACS Report Addresses Environmental Pollutants and Cancer Risk

Article date: October 28, 2009

By: Rebecca Viksnins Snowden

In a new report published online today in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a scientific advisory subcommittee of the American Cancer Society (ACS) clarified the Society's role in addressing the relationship between environmental pollutants and cancer risk. The report advises the public to minimize exposure to known carcinogens and calls for new strategies to more effectively and efficiently screen chemicals.

"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," said Elizabeth "Terry" T.H. Fontham, MPH, DrPH, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society and co-chair of the committee. "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."

The report is one of the first efforts of the subcommittee, which was established specifically to examine issues related to cancer and the environment. It provides an overview of how carcinogens are currently identified, evaluated, and classified, and goes into some of the limitations of those systems and the scientific complexity involved in environmental exposure risk assessment.

The report also details the Society's role in better understanding the impact of environmental carcinogens on public health and calls for new strategies for toxicity testing, additional research to identify and reduce carcinogenic hazards, and more funding for agencies that set and enforce environmental standards.

"The issue of environmental pollutants in air, water, food, and consumer products is one that generates significant public concern and uncertainty,” said Jonathan Samet, MD, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California, and co-chair of the committee that authored the report. “With this report, we felt it was important to put environmental pollutants into the broader context of cancer prevention, which includes efforts to reduce tobacco use, improve nutrition, increase physical activity, maintain a healthy body weight, and provide vaccinations against the infections that cause cancer."

"In developing this new initiative to increase understanding of how exposures to environmental pollutants may affect the risk of various cancers, the ACS will build on its long-term commitment to scientifically based prevention," the authors write.

To read the article, visit CA online. For more information on how carcinogens are identified, see Known and Probable Carcinogens

Citation: "American Cancer Society Perspectives on Environmental Factors and Cancer." Elizabeth T. H. Fontham, DrPH; Michael J. Thun, MD; Elizabeth Ward, PhD; Alan J. Balch, PhD; John Oliver L. Delancey, MPH; Jonathan M. Samet, MD; on behalf of the ACS Cancer and the Environment Subcommittee. Published online October 28, 2009 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

 Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

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