Information on this webpage is drawn from our 2005 report: Breast cancer - an environmental disease: the case for primary prevention, available free as a pdf, see Downloads. For current statistics and data, see our homepage.
Implications of accepting that the cancer epidemic may essentially be preventable will pose some difficult problems for politicians and decision-makers, who will have to consider adopting policies that may damage the economy in the short term in order to reap health benefits which will only become apparent several decades in the future.Empowered by the people and obligated by law, it is the duty of government:
(Hens Howard Van Larebeke 2004)
- to protect public health and the environment from man-made materials and practices that damage or have the potential to damage either of these
- to control industry behaviour in order to prevent adverse effects on health and environment
- to safeguard the population against science and industry-produced hazards, particularly those with irreversible effects such as cancer.
- government policy promoting lifestyle changes as key to prevention
- industries producing and marketing carcinogenic 'lifestyle' products.
Prevention economicsIn two reports prepared for the UK Treasury by Sir Derek Wanless on future health spending (April 2002, February 2004), he warns that 'the huge sums invested in NHS modernisation will be wasted if the health service is hit by high levels of preventable illness over the next 20 years.' ('Putting Health First' King's Fund 2004) Both in economic and social terms, prevention is the common sense approach to sustainable, long-term health service provision.
Directions for responsible governmentDeep public mistrust stemming from a recent history of government failures to protect public health (e.g. BSE and CJD) makes more urgent the need for resolute government action on many issues related to the primary prevention of breast cancer. For example, a responsible government would:
- make the goal 'pollution prevention' instead of 'pollution control'
- adopt 'the polluter pays' policy
- introduce a toxics reduction programme
- actively promote the development and use of safe alternatives to hazardous substances
- integrate health and environment in policies
- get serious about occupational factors affecting the health of women
- honour the commitment made to implement the precautionary principle
- take stringent measures to protect vulnerable people, particularly children
- extend regulatory requirements to all chemical compounds, old and new
- bring the UK's outdated regulations into line with advances in the field of toxicology
- extend the application of regulations to the whole community
- incorporate lay knowledge in the regulatory process
- prioritise primary prevention of breast cancer
- give breast cancer prevention the highest priority by setting up a working group:
- made up of professionals experienced in occupational and environmental cancers, independent scientists committed to cancer prevention, representatives of public interest (employee, consumer, citizen) groups and breast cancer, environment, union and workplace organisations
- dedicated to the development of comprehensive primary prevention policies and strategies. This group would be given a proportion of annual health expenditure for the implementation of the policies and strategies it recommends.
- a massive rethinking and reordering of priorities by science, industry and government
- a political and cultural shift where protection of public and environmental health takes priority over protection of industry, trade and the economy
- interaction and co-operation between independent organisations and institutions.
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Reg. address: Breast Cancer UK Ltd, Solva, Southwick Road, Denmead, Waterlooville, Hants. PO7 6LA UK | last updated: 05/10/2006