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Sunday, October 9, 2011

TUESDAY, PDX: Margaret Kripke Speaks on Environmentally Caused Cancers

Worldwide Breast Cancer MapImage by The Mayor of Worldwide Breast Cancer via FlickrThe Lund Report is a rare gem -- someone with a lot of knowledge about the medical-industrial complex doing the deep, hard work in the trenches to report on the whole gamut of issues that coalesce under the heading of health.

The editor, who funds this shoestring operation mainly out of her own pocket, consistently runs rings around the captive media outfits who dare not annoy advertisers, which include both the big hospitals and many polluters who would be happiest if we kept thinking that cancer is the fault of genetics or personal bad choices.  These people prefer it if we don't recognize that cancer is primarily an environmental illness.


Hat tip to Lund Report for bringing news of this:

Margaret Kripke, PhD, a co-author of that report, speaks in Portland next Tuesday, October 11 at an event sponsored by Rachel's Friends Breast Cancer Coalition in collaboration with the Oregon Environmental Council and Physicians for Social Responsibility. This free lecture takes place at 7 p.m. at Kaiser Town Hall located at 3704 N. Interstate.
According to the report, 'The incidence of some cancers, including those most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons,” while environmental cancers disproportionately affect women and members of disadvantaged social groups, who are more likely to be exposed to carcinogenic materials at work or who live in polluted environments.
Not only is more research needed into environmentally caused cancer, but environmental contaminants should be better regulated, and the methods of measuring such exposures improved, the report states. Currently such research is a low priority and receives inadequate funding, resulting in an inadequate number of environmental oncologists. Instead, most research emphasizes the genetic and molecular mechanisms in cancer.
The report is also critical of existing environmental cancer research, noting that most of that research investigates the effect of specific chemicals on adolescent laboratory animals – which doesn't really mirror real-world exposures to environmental contaminants. In addition, animals in these studies are exposed to doses substantially higher than those likely to be encountered by humans.
“These data – and the exposure limits extrapolated from them – fail to take into account harmful effects that may occur only at very low doses,” according to the report. “Further, chemicals typically are administered when laboratory animals are in their adolescence, a methodology that fails to assess the impact of in utero, childhood, and lifelong exposures. In addition, agents are tested singly, rather than in combination.”
Since Americans are exposed to tens of thousands of foreign chemicals throughout their lifetimes, studies should be designed to look at the effects of specific groups on contaminants in the communities most likely to be affected.
The report also calls for stronger regulation of environmental contaminants, saying that U.S. regulation is rendered ineffective by inadequate funding, fragmented and overlapping authorities and uneven enforcement, excessive regulatory complexity, weak laws and regulations and undue industry influence: “Too often, these factors, either singly or in combination, result in agency dysfunction, and a lack of will to identify and remove hazards.”
The panel advised President Obama “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water and air that needlessly increase healthcare costs, cripple our nation's productivity and devastate American lives.”
Kripke is currently serving her second three-year term on the President's Cancer Panel – comprised of three people including Lance Armstrong, and LaSalle D. Lefall, Jr., the report's co-author. The panel,  created by former President George W. Bush, advises the President on the status and needs of the cancer problem in America.
Kripke is a professor of immunology and executive vice president and chief academic officer to the University of Texas MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston. Her research focuses on the immunology of the skin and skin cancer, skin cancer's relationship to ultraviolet light, and how the immune system influences the development of skin cancers. She holds a PhD in immunology from the University of California at Berkeley.
When I am sad about the people I've known and lost to cancer, I give to only those groups that recognize that blaming the victims for their cancers lets the polluters off the hook.  The group that has been sounding the warning about the environmental roots of the cancer pandemic the longest:  Breast Cancer Action.
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