News & Media :: Daily Log
May 13, 2010
The "Leadership in Action" award goes to the President's Cancer Panel for its just-released report.
Pushback against the report from industry and the American Cancer Society is based on the argument that focusing on environmental chemical contaminants, and exposures like pesticides in food, distracts attention from the known, major risk factors for many cancers -- tobacco, obesity, alcohol, infections, hormones, and sunlight.
What this response fails to acknowledge, and what the Cancer Panel got right, is that exposures to chemicals in fact does play a key role in determining who will get cancer among all Americans who smoke, or who are obese, or spend a lot of time in the sun. None of these causes lead to cancers in anywhere near 100% of "exposed" people, and indeed for some major, known risk factors, less than 20% suffer from the disease. Why?
Because among some people who smoke, sunbathe, drink alcohol, etc, exposure to chemicals, and especially endocrine disruptors in the months prior to their conception, during fetal development, and in the first two years of life, triggered some deviation from perfection in laying the foundation for a person's immune system.
A less than fully functional immune system, later in life, can fail to combat early proliferative growth of aberrant cells (the start of what can become cancer), and this gives cancer a foothold. And then if that person happens to get a bad case of the flu, or develops diabetes or other health problems, gets the mumps, or if/when anything else taxes the person's energy or immune system, the small cluster of cancer cells gets a chance to grow, maybe just slowly, but over time the risks of serious problems rises exponentially.
People who suffer from the disease are among those who had a series of things go a little bit wrong, in sequence, at critical times, or a big thing go wrong at one or two points in life.
Windows of opportunity for accelerated cancer growth can emerge because of additional strain on the immune system or source of stress on the body, giving the growth of cancerous cells a chance to gain the capacity to spread, and then only timely interventions, chemo and/or radiation, can slow or stop the growth of the cells and an early death, and for some cancers, nothing can in the current medical toolkit.
The Cancer Panel deserves a lot of credit for having the courage to stand up to the cancer establishment, by focusing on prevention. The best prevention for cancer is a healthy immune system, and reducing exposures to endocrine disruptors at the beginning of life is absolutely, unequivocally a necessary first step.
Growing and consuming organic fruits and vegetables is one of the obvious, proven ways to lower exposures to a host of chemicals than can cause cancer or promote the growth of cancerous cell masses.
If the EPA would phase out the use of the half-dozen cancer causing pesticides still widely used and frequently found in food and drinking water, one important risk factor would be off the table.
A full cure? No. A step in the right direction? You can bet your life, joining the 21% of Americans who will die from the disease.