Health Views: Science Triumphs Over Toxic Terrorists

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This week, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) confirmed that the apparent increase of brain tumors in children over the last 20 years is the direct result of our improved ability to detect them.

In actuality, there has been little change in the rates of brain tumors. With the help of technology, specifically high tech screening devices, we re simply doing a better job of diagnosing them.

Yet the environmentalist community continues to warn us that the United States is experiencing a cancer epidemic and that chemicals are to blame.

The NCI report supports what many in the field of public health have long asserted: there is no evidence that cancer in humans is linked to exposure to environmental chemicals. In fact, it is the improvements in modern technology that enable us to detect and record cases of cancer more accurately than ever before.

The NCI researchers findings illustrate why consumers should beware the frequent and unsubstantiated claims of the environmental doomsday crowd as it condemns products of modern technology, including agricultural chemicals, industrial products, pharmaceuticals and more.

A similar contradiction to the alarmists conventional wisdom was revealed in last week s Journal of the American Medical Association, which published a study debunking the concept that mercury was detrimental to children s brain development. Researchers examined Seychelles Island children, who are known to have higher levels of mercury than American children. They found that these children scored higher than the general population on cognitive tests, indicating that exposure to this environmental pollutant was not a risk factor for impaired neurological development.

Decades of scientific research have identified only eight modifiable risk factors for human cancer. They are:

  • tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking
  • alcohol consumption, especially in conjunction with tobacco use
  • overexposure to ultraviolet rays (sunlight)
  • overexposure to radiation
  • certain occupational hazards, such as long term exposure to substances such as asbestos
  • certain medicines, for example DES, which when taken by pregnant women increased the risk of a rare cancer in some of their daughters
  • specific sexual and reproductive practices (having multiple sexual partners increases a woman s risk of cervical cancer; not having children or having a first child at a later age carries an increased risk of breast cancer)
  • insufficient fruit, vegetables and grains in the diet

Leaders at the NCI, epidemiologists, and other scientists do not put exposure to trace levels of chemicals anywhere on this list of risk factors.

Public health professionals must respond to environmental groups that exaggerate chemical dangers and make unsubstantiated claims about increased cancer risks in order to prevent our scarce health care resources from being diverted from real threats to pseudo threats.

The best advice beware of toxic terrorists.