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[I]n 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General warned, on the basis of good but partial evidence, that smoking causes long cancer. That was a courageous decision and an example of the precautionary principle in action. Proof for a link between smoking and lung cancer was not demonstrated until 1996, three decades later.

In Living Downstream, I advocate that we bring the same precautionary approach to other carcinogens, known and suspected. In so doing, I fully agree with the conclusion of a consensus statement, signed by many members of the cancer research and advocacy community and submitted to the President’s Cancer Panel in October 2008:

[“]The most direct way to prevent cancer is to stop putting cancer-causing agents into our indoor and outdoor environments in the first place.[“]

This task is made urgent by ascending rates of cancers unrelated to tobacco. Among U.S. men, age-adjusted incidence rates of multiple myeloma and cancers of the kidney, liver, and esophagus are rising. Among women, the cancers of increasing frequency include melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and tumors of the bladder, thyroid, and kidney. As is explained in Chapter Three, improvements in diagnostic techniques cannot explain away these trends. Many of the cancers that are now increasing in incidence are those with links to environmental exposures.

Most troubling: childhood cancer has increased steadily since 1975. Cancers among teenagers and young adults are also more prevalent.

Sandra Steingraber. Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment (Foreword to Second Edition). Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition.

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