Media Centre - IARC News




23/03/2011 -
WHO has organized the “International Conference on Environmental and Occupational Determinants of Cancer: Interventions for Primary Prevention”, held 17-18 March 2011 in Asturias (Avilés, Gijón), Spain. IARC scientists worked closely together with colleagues at WHO to develop the scientific programme and to draft the Asturias declaration, a call for action.

A significant proportion of all cancers are known to be caused by environmental and occupational exposures. There is currently large uncertainty of how substantial this proportion is. First, because the impact in under-researched countries is difficult to estimate, although levels of pollutants and contaminants are often high combined with difficulties in establishing rigorous protection of the general population, of workers and of the environment. Second, because several cancers for which at present few risk factors have been established are thought to have a relevant environmental component. Third, it has yet been difficult to quantify the impact of combined exposures to for instance different chemicals and the possible interplay between lifestyle factors and environmental exposures. Fourth, for many putative environmental carcinogens the tools to accurately measure exposure are inadequate and hence it is currently difficult to study the relationship with cancer risk in exposed populations.

IARC therefore supports and endorses the Asturias pledge, a call for action. Research into environmental causes of cancer needs to be strengthened, particularly in countries or regions of high exposure. For many environmental and occupational risk factors primary prevention strategies do exist and need to be implemented in national action plans tailored to the regional cancer burden. As cancer develops slowly and often decades after exposure, the benefit of primary prevention will only emerge in the future, which is why it is very timely to become active now for those risk factors that are modifiable.

Link to the Asturias Declaration: a call for action.