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February 4: World Cancer Day

WECF: 'Address primary prevention as it should'

04.02.2015 |WECF

Today is World Cancer Day and many will stress the need for improving treatments and patients care. And no one can contest this obvious necessity. But as is the case for many other non communicable diseases, primary prevention of the disease is far from being addressed as it should.

And yet, some have developed models of integrated approaches of cancer which put primary prevention at its right place. Patrice Sutton, from the Programme on Reproductive Health and the Environment (UCSF), speaker at our international Breast Cancer & the environment symposium last October (1) – or Pr. Ted Schettler, author of The Ecology of Breast Cancer (2) are among them. Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) are part of this picture : one more reason to implement national and European policies which will reduce populations’ exposure to this category of toxic chemicals.

The California Breast Cancer Prevention Initiatives : the road towards a global approach of prevention  “The environment is an underutilized pathway to breast cancer prevention”, are the first words of an article released in Reproductive Toxicology on September 2014 (3), co-authored by Patrice Sutton and several other reproductive health scientists. The authors bring together key conclusions of 4 years spent in elaborating an agenda for breast cancer research, environment, disparities and prevention. One the ultimate ambitions of the project is notably to “modify[ing] the world around us to promote a less carcinogenic environment”.

Concrete actions to reduce exposure to carcinogens and EDCs
Since 1945, the amount of chemicals placed on the market has increased by more than 15 fold worldwide. In the US, some 700 new chemicals are placed on the market every year. Europe and other parts of the world have to face the same situation. Chemicals such as hormonal (endocrine) disruptors are highly suspected to contribute to the increasing incidence of breast cancer risk: bisphenol A, perfluorinated compounds, atrazine (a pesticide), some parabens (used as preservatives in cosmetics), cadmium, dioxins, acrylamide, PAH, ethylene oxide, pharmaceuticals, are only a few (4).

As Anne Barre, president of WECF France points out that : “WECF wishes the reduction of exposure to EDCs starts as soon as possible: raise awareness among the public on how to reduce exposure to carcinogens or EDCs – as planned by the 3rd French Cancer Plan – is very good indeed. But phasing out and substituting known and suspected hazardous chemicals in products and applications would be far more efficient in terms of impacts. European citizens are legitimate to demand the European Commission to stop delaying action and address EDCs as it should in a democracy where the protection of health, environment and the precautionary principle are among our core principles.” (5)

The Ecology of Breast Cancer, an integrated model approach of breast cancer
Ted Schettler, MD, MPH is Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. He is the author of "The Ecology of Breast Cancer" (2013), which deals with the most frequent cancer in women today – 1 in 8 women in France – and whose costs in premature deaths and disabilities amount to 88 billion dollars each year (6). Having analyzed and compiled many data on the disease, he states that "Breast cancer is a design problem. Breast cancer is not only a disease of individuals, but also of communities. Breast cancer patterns arise out of societies that we design. In that way, breast cancer is profoundly a public health concern requiring a public health response. A larger framework that includes multiple levels of organization – the individual, family, community, ecosystem, and society – and reciprocal interactions among them, is arguably essential for better understanding the origins and prevention of breast cancer"

(1)    Patrice Sutton, Programme on Reproductive Health and the Environemnt, University of California San Francisco spoke on «the Role of reproductive health professionals and scientists in reducing environmental exposures linked to women’s reproductive health »  Breast cancer and the environment symposium organized by WECF, 14th October 2014, Lyon,,2205.html

(2)    The Ecology of Breast Cancer – The promise of Prevention and the Hope for Healing, Ted Schettler, MD, PhD, October 2013,

(3)    California Breast Cancer Prevention Initiatives: Setting a research agenda for prevention,  P. Sutton M.H.E. Kavanaugh-Lynchb, M. Plumbc, I.H. Yend, H. Sarantise, C.L. Thomsenb,S. Camplemanb, E. Galpernc, C. Dickensona, T.J. Woodruff, Reproductive Toxicology, 2014.

(4)    In May 2014, a research by the Silent Spring Institute identified 17 priority substances to target for Breast Cancer prevention

(5)    International Festival of Environment Movie (FIFE) takes place in Paris from 3rd to 19th February 2015. The documentary “Endoc(t)rinement” of Stephane Horel, on lobbying activities against EDCs regulation in Brussels will be broadcast on February 9th at 2.30 pm and 8.30 pm

(6)    Figures from the report State of the Science on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012, WHO/UNEP, 2013.

Contact  :
Elisabeth Ruffinengo, Health and Advocacy Officer, WECF France + 33 (0)4 50 83 48 13 / + 33 (06 74 77 77 00

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