Children's Cancer Recovery

We Can Prevent Most Childhood Cancers

Written by Gregory Anderson. Mr. Anderson is the founder and CEO of the Cancer Recovery Foundation International Group, a global affiliation of national organizations whose mission is to help all people prevent and survive cancer. Mr. Anderson, a cancer survivor, is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading wellness authorities. He is the author of fourteen books and DVDs, including the international bestseller, Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do (Penguin/Plume, 4th Ed., 2013).

The vast majority of the 80,000 chemicals in everyday use in the United States, as well as globally, have never been tested for toxicity to humans. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 provides the EPA with the authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. But, the exclusions from TSCA are numerous including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides. In the very simplest of terms, this means you and I do not know the safety of most of the chemicals in the products we use every day.

In recognition of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (September), it is important to underscore the point that several clinical, epidemiological and toxicological studies spanning the past 60 years support the hypothesis that early exposures to environmental carcinogens can cause childhood cancer and that infants and children are uniquely vulnerable.

The National Cancer Institute reports that pesticide exposure is, perhaps, the most dangerous, invasive and cumulative threat to a child’s early development and health. Each year, in the U.S., more than 1 billion pounds of synthetic pesticides – insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides and fungicides – are applied in agriculture, homes, schools, parks, playgrounds and daycare centers.

The National Toxicology Program has found in animal bioassays that a number of widely-used pesticides are carcinogenic. Epidemiologic studies have found consistent modest associations between pesticide exposures in utero and in early childhood and acute lymphocytic leukemia, childhood brain cancer, and childhood non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Rates of childhood leukemia are consistently elevated among children who grow up on farms, among children whose parents used pesticides in the home or garden, and among children of pesticide applicators, according to a multi-University study and as reported in Environmental Health Perspectives (10.1289/0800209).

Early life exposures to harmful substances can affect children says the Future of Children, a collaboration of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. One example is polybrominated flame retardants (PBDEs) and similar chemicals, which are often added to infant products, according to Environmental Science & Technology. As a result, PBDEs are increasingly being found in human blood, breast milk, and tissues. These chemicals are linked to many neurocognitive problems in children including cancer.

Cancer is now the second leading cause of death among children under age 15 in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute. Mortality from childhood cancer is exceeded only by deaths from injury and violence. Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. Incidence of leukemia in 0-14 year-old U.S. children increased from 3.3 per 100,000 in 1975 to 5.1 per 100,000 in 2005, a 55% increase. Acute lymphocytic leukemia increased in the same years from 2.2 to 4.0 per 100,000, an 81% increase.

Now more than ever, a global sea change is needed in our approach to childhood cancer. Two fundamental problems of the current approach involve far too much emphasis on early detection and treatment of cancer. While important, this direction does not get at the root, often unrecognized, causes. In addition, existing prevention efforts are devoted almost solely to lifestyle factors such as smoking, exercise and diet. Once again, these are critical -- but they are not sufficient.

Many cancers caused by environmental and occupational exposures can be prevented. Primary prevention that halts exposure is the single most effective strategy of reducing cancer incidence and saving lives and billions of dollars.

In 2010, President Obama’s Cancer Panel recommended that the U.S. Congress must prevail to make cancer prevention the top priority. This is a major shift and some contend that it will take a Second War on Cancer in the efforts to stress cancer prevention rather than early detection and cure-at-all-costs.

I call on the Administration and Congress to make the discovery and prevention of the environmental causes of childhood cancer a national priority for our country. I extend the same challenge to all nations who value their children.  Today, hundreds of thousands of children are being inadvertently exposed to hazardous chemicals at a time in their lives when they are uniquely sensitive to the long-term, detrimental effects. We must change the way we approach childhood cancer.  We simply must make prevention the top priority.

Gregory Anderson is the founder and CEO of the Cancer Recovery Foundation International Group, a global affiliation of national organizations whose mission is to help all people prevent and survive cancer. Mr. Anderson, a cancer survivor, is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading wellness authorities. He is the author of fourteen books and DVDs, including the international bestseller, Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do (Penguin/Plume, 4th Ed., 2013).

Comments are closed.