Preventing cancer now – environmental causes are a small piece of puzzle

Attention is drawn to the environmental causes of cancer again this week with a perspective written in the New England Journal of Medicine that calls for expanding the resources of the NIH for investigating environmental causes of cancer.  
At a time when budgets are being threatened, and in particular prevention efforts “which have no union” and for which the benefits accrue in the future (See related opinion piece). 
I have previously noted the power of lifestyle to drive cancer rates and the enormous potential we have to reduce this burden with what we know today.
Coverage of the President’s Cancer Panel report last year drew attention to environmental contaminants as a potential cause of cancer (report). While this is an area of much public interest and certainly an important part of comprehensive health policy, it missed the opportunity to influence the nation’s approach to cancer control and prevention.
Current evidence shows that pollutants cause just 1 – 4 percent of all cancer, while obesity and tobacco each cause 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Even when occupational exposures are added in, lifestyle factors trump environmental factors by at least a factor of six. Our prevention snapshot sets out a quick and easy to access summary of the potential to prevent cancer now. 

See our full posting on this topic.

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