Professional and consumer concerns about the environment, lifestyle, and cancer.

Abstract

Although it cannot be said that "everything causes cancer," our environment will never be carcinogen-free. As a result, there are many substances we come in contact with daily that could be potentially harmful to our health. Even with the growing knowledge of the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, it is difficult to single out the exact cancer-causing or -promoting effects of single substances. The confusion that exists about the environment, lifestyle, and cancer can be overwhelming for everyone. Garfinkel offered the following suggestions for health care providers to use in putting this issue into better perspective for consumers: (1) no single study of cancer risk factors should be used as a basis for writing or changing public health policy; (2) animal studies should be supportive of findings in epidemiological studies; (3) any environmental factor-cancer effect relationship should be demonstrated biologically; (4) regulatory agencies such as the EPA tend to be conservative in their interpretation of study results, and may suggest caution even when the risk of developing cancer is low; (5) regulatory agencies have been known to extrapolate future effects of carcinogen exposure from current incomplete or limited information about the carcinogen in question. With the knowledge that we do have, we must strive to take personal control over life-style factors that may cause cancer.

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