Cancer and environment: Definitions and misconceptions

Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Environmental Research (Impact Factor: 3.95). 11/2011; 112:230-4. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2011.10.009
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Scientific evidence supports an association between environmental exposures and cancer. However, a reliable estimate for the proportion of cancers attributable to environmental factors is currently unavailable. This may be related to the varying definitions of the term "environment." The current review aims to determine how the reporting of the definition of the environment and of the estimates of environmentally attributable risks have changed over the past 50 years.
A systematic literature search was performed to retrieve all relevant publications relating to the environment and cancer from January 1960 to December 2010 using PubMed, EMBASE, Scopus, and Web of Science. Definitions of the environment and environmentally attributable risks for cancer were extracted from each relevant publication.
The search resulted in 261 relevant publications. We found vast discrepancies in the definition of the environment, ranging from broad (including lifestyle factors, occupational exposures, pollutants, and other non-genetic factors) to narrow (including air, water, and soil pollutants). Reported environmentally attributable risk estimates ranged from 1% to 100%.
Our findings emphasize the discrepancies in reporting environmental causation of cancer and the limits of inference in interpreting environmentally attributable risk estimates. Rather than achieving consensus on a single definition for the environment, we suggest the focus be on achieving transparency for any environmentally attributable risks.

Download full-text


Available from: Laura A McGuinn, May 16, 2014
  • Source
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Given the continued growth in the number of persons with cancer in the United States, the primary prevention of cancer remains an urgent public health priority. As the field of cancer prevention continues to mature and scientific knowledge evolves, it is imperative to challenge the status quo and embrace new approaches to cancer prevention. In this commentary, we summarize recent trends and some of the scientific advances that have been made over the past few decades regarding the complex process of cancer development and the interaction of individual and social risk factors. We examine some of the assumptions and terminology that have characterized cancer prevention approaches for more than a quarter century and the impact of these assumptions and our use of terminology. We propose that it is possible for today's youth to experience lower cancer incidence rates as adults compared with previous generations. To accomplish this goal, a more transdisciplinary and multifaceted approach is needed, adapted as appropriate for different populations and stages of life. The greatest improvements in cancer prevention may occur as a result of innovative, multilevel interventions that build on the expanding scientific evidence base.
    Journal of Adolescent Health 05/2013; 52(5 Suppl):S1-7. DOI:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.02.016 · 2.75 Impact Factor