Limited research on environmental influences on cancer; conflicting or inadequate exposure measurement, assessment, and classification; and ineffective regulation of environmental chemical and other hazardous exposures are key issues for reducing environmental cancer risk, according to the report from the Presidents Cancer Panel, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now published May 6, 2010, according to a post on ORC Worldwide’s web site, written by Dee Woodhull. ORC Worldwide is a Washington-based environmental health and safety consultancy.

A summary of the report cited statistics such as: “approximately 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and about 21 percent will die from cancer. The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons” as a premise for the panel’s recommendations. The recommendations outline specific actions that “governments; industry; the research, health care, and advocacy communities; and individuals can take to reduce cancer risk related to environmental contaminants, excess radiation, and other harmful exposures.”

In their cover letter to the President, the authors stated that “In 2009 alone, approximately 1.5 million American men, women, and children were diagnosed with cancer, and 562,000 died from the disease.” They urged him to “use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation's productivity, and devastate American lives.” They went on to point out that “With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.”

Members of the President's Cancer Panel are Chairperson LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S.; Charles R. Drew, Professor of Surgery, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, DC; and Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D., Vivian L. Smith Chair and Professor Emerita, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. In developing information and recommendations for the report, the panel held meetings and discussions with university professors, government researchers and scientists with NGOs.Among those involved were several names familiar to ORC members: Adam Finkel, Philip Landrigan, Frank Mirer, and Paul Schulte. No industry representatives participated.

The panel endorsed the legislation (Safe Chemicals Act of 2010) introduced on April 15, 2010 into the Senate by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) as having “the potential to be an important first step toward a precautionary chemicals management policy and regulatory approach to reducing environmental cancer risk” because its “precautionary, prevention-oriented approach” to chemical regulation aims to “shift the burden of proving safety to manufacturers prior to new chemical approval, in mandatory post-market studies for new and existing agents, and in renewal applications for chemical approval.”