Cancer, Your Health & the Environment

28 Feb

Cancer Cells

Last weekend I was reviewing the President’s Cancer Panel publication “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk.” It is a long report (240 pages) but well worth reviewing given the effect the environment has on personal health.

According to the report, approximately 41% of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point of their lives and 21% (or half) will die from it. The biggest single influence is increasingly seen as coming from exogenous factors (outside the body).

These broadly affect health in the following areas:

  • Hormone Production and Function
  • Systemic Inflammation
  • DNA Damage
  • Gene Suppression or Overexpression

The report states: >)” />

“With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action.”

It followed by stating that the “Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.”

1)    The public has to present proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that a substance will cause harm.

2)    There is no obvious oversight to consider the potential health and environmental impacts of new chemicals.

3)    The effects of long term exposures is not widely tested.

4)    Interaction with other chemicals is not widely tested.

The U.S. currently requires testing on less than 1% of all chemicals in commerce. Few of the 80,000 chemicals used in the U.S. are under any form of regulatory control.

Contrast the U.S. approach with that of the EU. Through the Cosmetics Directive of 1976, they banned the use of over 1,300 chemicals which are still used in cosmetics in the U.S. Atrazine, a herbicide widely used in the U.S., is believed to have endocrine disrupting and carcinogenic properties. It was banned by the EU in 2004. In 2007 the EPA approved its continued use.

In particular, the report discusses how women and children may be more vulnerable given smaller and more delicate physiologies.

Consider the potential for better health through being able to track environmental or toxic exposures:

1)    Over millions of years, our bodies developed and evolved in concert with our immediate environment. We are incredibly sensitive organisms that readily uptake substances which are part of our immediate environment.

2)    Any synthetic substance has strong potential to impair the functioning of your system biology and set you up for a whole range of health problems that have at their roots chronic inflammatory or immune system impairment.

3)    Adopting a strategy of avoiding unnatural substances that cause biological confusion within your body will help it function better and moreover help to avoid poor health.

4)    Periodic testing to see what contaminants and toxins are in your body as well as seeing how your overall system biology is doing is essential in managing your health.

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