Cancer and health leaders call for action to reduce burden of cancer by addressing environmental risk factors

Date: Sep 17 2020

Contact: Media Relations

Anayana White, Cancer Free Economy Network, 907-301-6423,

It is now estimated that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and for many cancers, incidence rates continue to rise. Over two decades of science points to toxic chemicals in our environment as important risk factors. To bring down incidence rates, leaders of major cancer and public health organizations in the United States have released a Joint Statement—the first of its kind—calling for greater action to prevent cancer by removing carcinogens from our everyday environments and transitioning to safer products.

Led by the Cancer Free Economy Network, the statement, “Cancer and Health Leaders Call for Action to Reduce the Burden of Cancer by Addressing Environmental Risk Factors,” seeks to shift the current paradigm to consider the environmental causes of cancers, and instigate the critical scientific, public health and policy steps required to protect our health and that of future generations.

A live press teleconference is scheduled for tomorrow at 11am EST, including a Q&A session directly to follow. Click here to join. To access the Joint Statement go to:

Based on a comprehensive review of the science, the Joint Statement signers assert there is sufficient evidence to warrant preventative actions for a number of risk factors in the environment to which the general public is exposed.

“Cancer is preventable and calling out causative agents is the first step in addressing it. The recommendations in this Joint Statement will help focus our efforts on key environmental factors we know can reduce the burden of cancer by limiting our environmental exposures,” says Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association. For instance, air pollutants, pesticides, radon, formaldehyde, flame retardants, and organic solvents are some of the known carcinogens that are commonly-found in our environment or in everyday products.

"It cannot be overstated how truly pivotal the Joint Statement on Cancer Prevention is to the issue of reducing the burden of cancer through the reduction of so many known environmental risk factors.  The mounting scientific evidence supporting the link between chemical and environmental factors and cancer should create an immediate sense of urgency, as highlighted in this statement,” says Jonathan Again, JD, Executive Director of the Max Cure Foundation.

“As pediatricians, our number one priority is to make sure children can grow up healthy – ensuring a safe environment is vital to making that possible. Children are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures. They are smaller than adults and, pound for pound, breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water, meaning there is more opportunity for exposure to harmful chemicals and pollutants. Addressing environmental health plays an essential role in preventing cancer, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics is pleased to join with other leading health groups on this important effort to reduce exposures to dangerous chemicals and support children’s lifelong health.” American Academy of Pediatrics President Sally Goza, MD, FAAP.

Research shows that Indigenous, Black, and Latinx people, as well as recent immigrants and people with lower incomes are far more likely to work with toxic chemicals that increase their risk for cancer and are more likely to eat, drink, and breathe more toxic chemicals because of where they live. The Joint Statement calls for elevating the voices of vulnerable populations and disproportionately exposed communities, including workers, children, and advocates.

“The inequity in access and outcomes in cancer treatment and survivorship are staggering and disproportionately impact poor people and people of color. The community we serve is more likely to be uninsured or under-insured, living paycheck to paycheck and are less likely to work in jobs with paid sick leave or have access to government funded assistance. Our community battles a cancer diagnosis while also battling the social obstacles and economic turmoil triggered by a diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis should not force you to choose between your best possible health outcomes and paying rent or feeding your family, but for many of the people we serve it absolutely does. It is a moral and economic imperative that we do all we can to prevent cancer now. The research is there. At this point it is just a matter of will,” says Darcie Green, BCPA, Executive Director of Latinas Contra Cancer.

Over the past decade, motivated by evolving science and public concern, chemists, engineers, and business innovators have begun developing safer chemicals and materials,  and in some cases manufacturers have removed toxic chemicals from their products  altogether. But these efforts are small relative to the need and opportunity.

“This statement is an important call to action that has the potential to shift the direction of cancer research more toward prevention, and ultimately to reduce the incidence of cancer.  Importantly, it provides a specific roadmap for achieving this goal,” says Margaret Kripke, PhD, Professor Emerita, MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Organizations signing onto this Joint Statement on Cancer Prevention call on leaders in industry, government, policy, and health care to promote policies and practices that keep toxic chemicals out of our environment, our bodies, and consumer products, as well as places where we live, learn, and work.

“Our process for reviewing chemicals for use is broken. There are over 80,000 known synthetic chemicals in use in the United States and most have not been tested for their impacts on human health and development. In order to eliminate carcinogens from our products and environment, we need to prioritize the identification and removal of these toxic chemicals,” says Katie Huffling, Executive Director of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

Reducing the use of and exposure to chemicals known to contribute to cancer should be a top priority for prevention and for public health leaders and communities seeking to eliminate chronic disease and lower health care costs.

“Primary prevention has to be our priority. Scaling the design and development of safer chemicals and materials as alternatives to cancer-causing chemicals must be taken seriously. No parent should receive the horrible news of a cancer diagnosis for their child when there may be the opportunity to impede the development of disease from the start,” says Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, MPH, Executive Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network.

During the teleconference, members of the Cancer Free Economy Network, cancer-focused, health professionals, and public health organization leaders will present an overview of the new Joint Statement on Cancer Prevention “Cancer and Health Leaders Call for Action to Reduce the Burden of Cancer by Reducing Environmental Risk Factors.”  This first-of-its-kind statement calls for using available science to ambitiously expand research, practice, and public policy to prevent onset of disease from environmental exposures.

This call will feature notable speakers:  Margaret Kripke, PhD, Professor Emerita, MD Anderson Cancer Center - Jonathan Agin, JD, Executive Director, Max Cure Foundation - Darcie Green, BCPA, Executive Director, Latinas Contra Cancer - and Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association. This discussion will be moderated by Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, MPH, Executive Director, Children’s Environmental Health Network and Co-Chair of the Health & Science Node for the Cancer Free Economy Network.

This Joint Statement on Cancer Prevention release will be followed by the launch of a Childhood Cancer Prevention Initiative and Report release on Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. EST


The Cancer Free Economy Network is a dynamic, collaborative network among diverse teams of experts and stakeholders from the environmental and social justice, health, science, policy, legal, labor, business and communications sectors who have come together to accelerate progress towards a society that values healthy communities above profit. 

The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at