Canadian Cancer Society, September 14, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: "We use the precautionary principle when developing positions, which states that when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically." American Cancer Society, please take note.]

Canadian Cancer Society volunteers and staff want you to know what our organization is doing to prevent and fight cancer and the difference we are making in these areas. We believe that Canadians should be protected from inadvertent exposure to cancer causing agents including those in our environment.

Here are some of the things that we have been doing about cancer and the environment:

We use the precautionary principle when developing positions, which states that when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

We have positions against the cosmetic use of pesticides, pressure treated lumber and occupational exposure to carcinogens.

We constantly monitor new research and information in this area so we can inform Canadians, develop and revise health messages and guide our advocacy efforts.

We were leaders in advocating for the implementation of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. We applauded the federal government's announcement in May 2006 of $52 million a year for 5 years to implement the Strategy.Prevention is a major component of this cancer strategy. As part of our work on the Strategy, we participated in a committee that made recommendations about the prevention of occupational and environmental cancers in Canada. We are also members of a committee of the Strategy that recommended that a symbol be used to clearly and quickly identify whether a substance does or does not have any cancer-causing substances in it. We continue to apply pressure to policy-makers to put this initiative into effect.

We worked with Cancer Care Ontario in 2005 to produce a report for policy-makers and health professionals about environmental exposures and cancer.

We have been funding prevention research, including projects: investigating genetic and environmental factors that may cause acute lymphoblastic leukemia -- one of the most common childhood cancers identifying risk factors for prostate cancer including physical activity, smoking, alcohol use and exposure to chemical agents found in the workplace investigating possible environmental and genetic factors that might contribute to the development of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

We've been leaders in tobacco control for years, including by ensuring policies and legislation are in place to protect Canadians from tobacco smoke. Thirty per cent of all cancers are caused by smoking.

The complexity of cancer requires that we approach the disease in a comprehensive way and that we work in partnership with other organizations -- governments, regulatory bodies, employers, businesses and individuals -- to maximize the impact of our efforts. The complexity of the disease also requires that we focus first on areas where science tells us we can make a substantive difference.

Prevention is a vital part of the Society's work and we are always intensifying our efforts in this area.

Here are some of the other things we're working on to help prevent cancer:

We brought together an international committee to develop updated health messaging about vitamin D, UV exposure and cancer. There is a strong scientific body of evidence showing that unprotected sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. However, there has been mounting evidence to suggest that adequate vitamin D levels - obtained through unprotected sun exposure or supplementation -- may reduce your risk of some cancers. Key findings were released in May 2006.

We're reviewing the body of evidence around the benefits and risks of oral contraceptives. We expect to have completed this review and to have information available in the summer.

We're reviewing and will be updating our Seven Steps to Health to better reflect what individuals can do to reduce exposure to cancer causing substances at home, in their community and at work. You can contribute to making healthy choices easy choices by working together with us to advocate to governments and by working in your communities to change policies.

We're establishing a Canadian Cancer Society Research Chair in the Primary Prevention of Cancer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

We're establishing a Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Population Cancer Research at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

We launched a Cancer Prevention Week in Ontario (April 17-23) with heavy emphasis on what individuals can do to reduce their risk in conjunction with the need for supportive public policies in the areas of both primary and secondary prevention.

We're finalizing a plan to have a panel of prevention research experts review the current state of knowledge about cancer prevention in Canada and around the world. These experts will then identify gaps in our knowledge and make recommendations about how they can be filled.

We will be conducting a review of the CancerSmart Consumer Guide and, if appropriate, assist in making it more easily accessible to Canadians.

We will continue to be active members of the National Committee on Environmental and Occupational Exposures and the Primary Prevention Action Group, both part of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control.

We will continue our participation in the review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

We will continue to advocate to all levels of government to ensure they implement policies that will protect Canadians from known or probable carcinogens and that will help them make healthy choices easy choices.

On a final note, you may have heard Canada is experiencing rising cancer rates. In fact, according to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2006, in general, incidence and death rates for the majority of cancer sites have stabilized or declined for more than a decade. This means that your individual risk of developing or dying of cancer is the same or lower than it was 10 years ago. But because Canada's population is growing, baby boomers are aging and cancer occurs most often in older people, the number of new individual cases of cancer is rising. If current rates continue however, in the next 20 years, the number of new individual cases of cancer will rise by about 60%. At the Canadian Cancer Society, we are absolutely committed to ensuring this does not happen. The best way to control cancer is to stop it before it starts.

The Society takes pride in its ongoing work in prevention, providing support for people with cancer, advocating to governments, providing cancer information for all Canadians and funding important research. Society volunteers and staff are committed to their efforts to eradicate cancer and to improve the quality of life of people living with the disease. In no small part, our efforts against cancer are helping to prevent the disease and together we will continue to find important answers about the disease.

Visit the prevention section of our website for more information about our efforts.

Together we will make cancer history.