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U Mass Lowell Report Links Environmental and Occupational Exposures to Cancers

September 20, 2005

The University of Massachusetts Lowell today released a report that links dozens of environmental and occupational exposures to nearly 30 types of cancer.

The new study by the University's Lowell Center for Sustainable Production
reviewed scientific evidence documenting associations between environmental
and occupational exposures and certain cancers in the United States -
marking the first time this massive body of material has been summarized in
one, accessible document.

"We need to pay attention to environmental and occupational risk factors,"
said Molly Jacobs, project manager.  "Known and preventable exposures are
clearly responsible for tens of thousands of excess cancer cases each year.
It is unconscionable not to implement policy changes that we know will
prevent sickness and death."

"Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer:  A Review of Recent
Scientific Evidence" shows that many cancer cases and deaths are caused or
contributed to by involuntary exposures.  These include: bladder cancer from
the primary solvent used in dry cleaning, breast cancer from endocrine
disruptors like bisphenol-A and other plastics components, lung cancer from
residential exposure to radon, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from solvent and
herbicide exposure, and childhood leukemia from pesticides.

"The sum of the evidence makes an airtight case for reconsideration of
chemicals policies in the U.S.," said Dr. Richard W. Clapp, lead
epidemiologist for the report and adjunct professor at UMass Lowell.  "We
need to follow the example of the European Union's REACH program, which
prevents the use of known or suspected carcinogens when suitable substitutes
are readily available."

Despite notable gains in reducing incidence and mortality rates for certain
cancers, the authors lament that cancer constitutes a growing burden on
society. They note that the mortality rate for all cancers combined
(excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) is the same today as it was in the
1940s and the annual rate of new cases increased by 85 percent over the past
50 years.

"Major cancer agencies have largely avoided the urgency of acting on what we
know to prevent people from getting cancer in the first place," said
researcher Genevieve Howe.

The report disputes the often-cited, 25 year-old analysis by Sir Richard
Doll and Richard Peto that attributes only 2 to 4 percent of cancers to
involuntary environmental and occupational exposures.  "Our review makes it
clear that new knowledge about multiple causes of cancer, including
involuntary exposures, early-life exposures, synergistic effects, and
genetic factors, renders making such estimates not just pointless, but
counterproductive," Clapp said.

The full press release, Executive Summary, and report are available at:

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