Not enough cancer awareness focused on prevention

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May 2, 2007

From Prevent Cancer Now and the Saunders-Matthey Cancer Prevention Coalition  

Most research studies, media attention and cancer organizations ignore cancer prevention, over-emphasize pharmaceutical 'cures'  

Cancer is now or will soon be the #1 cause of death for women and men in Canada, StatsCanada says. About 200 types of malignancies will kill an estimated 73,000 men, women and children in 2007, including many of the 160,000 Canadians who will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year. The cancer epidemic is well known. What is not so well known is that a significant proportion of cancers and cancer deaths are preventable.  

April is always "Cancer Awareness Month" in Canada, but this year, the month of May will offer the opportunity for Canadians to learn about cancer prevention. The non-profit organization, Prevent Cancer Now, a consortium of health practitioners, educators, scientists and activists, will be holding its first national conference, "Cancer: It's About Prevention. It's About Time!" in Canada's capital, at the University of Ottawa, May 24-27th.  

Speakers and workshops at the conference will address the many environmental and occupational factors that contribute to cancer, including the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat - plus numerous toxic substances in our homes, schools, workplaces and in common, everyday products.     

"There are several reasons why we're staging this conference at the end of May in Ottawa," says Angela Rickman, Executive Director of Prevent Cancer Now. "One of the most interesting is that Sunday, May 27 is the exact centenary of Rachel Carson's birth. It was Carson, in her famous 1962 book, Silent Spring, who warned that unless we eliminated the man-made causes of cancer, that cancer rates would continue to rise to epidemic levels."  

"Carson was right. Back in 1962, cancer struck one in every four North Americans, and killed one in five," Rickman states. "Now, cancer strikes nearly half of all men in Canada and the United States, over one third of women - and kills one in four."   Prevent Cancer Now, and its main conference co-sponsor, the Saunders-Matthey Cancer Prevention Coalition, agrees with all of the major cancer agencies that smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and a certain contributor to several other malignancies. But there is much more to the cancer prevention picture than 'personal lifestyle,' including these 10 issues:  

1. Exposure to radon gas in our homes and workplaces.

2. Exposure to asbestos fibres, expecially by workers in various occupations and trades.

3. Exposure to carcinogens in common personal care and home products.                           

4. Pesticide residues on our food, and diets that consist of processed foods stripped of  antioxidants and essential nutrients.

5. Exposure to carcinogens and hormone disruptors from some plastics, and from air pollution caused by diesel fumes, particulates and volatile organic compounds.

6. Exposure to ionizing radiation, including medical applications such as 'CAT' scans and whole body X-rays; exposure to tritium and other by-products from nuclear power plants. 

7. Exposure to electro-magnetic radiation from widespread use of wired and wireless electronic devices and their transmitters.

8. Exposure of the human embryo to scores of synthetic (man-made) chemicals that the placenta cannot block.

9. Occupational exposures to carcinogens, among them solvents & other synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, asbestos, and both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.             

10. Exposure to hazardous substances at schools, including art supplies, chemical cleaners, diesel exhaust from buses, and pesticides that are sprayed both indoors and on school playgrounds.

Instead of despairing over cancer rates and deaths, Prevent Cancer Now and its allies are urging Canadians to take action for prevention, in addition to supporting research to develop better treatments and find cures.

"There are so many ways we can reduce our exposures to toxic substances that cause cancer," says Guy Dauncey of Victoria, co-author of the book, Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic, which will be launched at the May 24-27 conference.  

"If April is Cancer Awareness Month, May should be Cancer Prevention Month," says Liz Armstrong, co-author with Dauncey and Anne Wordsworth of the 'cancer solutions' book.  

Speakers and workshop presenters at the conference will include many experts in cancer prevention including Devra Davis, author of When Smoke Ran Like Water and Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology in Pittsburgh; the poet and biologist Sandra Steingraber, author of the best-seller Living Downstream; Jim Brophy, Executive Director of the Sarnia Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers; and Mae Burrows, Executive Director of the Labour Environmental Alliance in British Columbia.  

The full conference program is available at Prevent Cancer Now's website:    

For media interviews with conference organizers, and speakers at the May conference, contact: Angela Rickman, Executive Director, Prevent Cancer Now 613-482-8124 Cell: (613)859-5701 Email:  

Guy Dauncey, Co-Chair, Prevent Cancer Now Phone: 250-881-1304 Email:  

Liz Armstrong, Co-Chair, Prevent Cancer Now Phone: 519-833-7202 Email: