Friday, August 10, 2007

Guilty pleasures

Cancer Research UK has released research that some cancers have risen due to our lifestyle. Cancer is now characterised as a kind of earthly retribution - paying for the sins of a hedonistic lifestyle - eating, drinking and tanning yourself to death. A timely message perhaps, given that many will be off on their jollies to abuse (enjoy?) themselves in such a manner. CRUK have also kindly provided a twenty page brochure on what you can do to reduce the risk of cancer.

I explored the brochure , where it illustrates the reduction in the number of people smoking has been reflected in a reduction in deaths from lung cancer. The document also rightly emphasised the importance of early detection and prevention. The main message is that personal responsibility is key.

The brochure also heralded a new £12m research project "on health behaviours associated with tobacco use, diet and nutrition, obesity and physical activity, which are major risk factors common to several major disease groups".

I think the conclusions will be pretty obvious without the need to spend £12m - don't smoke, eat a balanced diet and exercise. Pay me please.

However, whilst the brochure calls for personal life changes to prevent cancer (nothing wrong with that), nothing is mentioned of external factors - chemicals and hormones in food and water, cosmetics and household chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, air pollution, and a whole host of other environmental nasties. Indeed the word environment doesn't even grace the pages.

Now as you've probably guessed, I've got my Waste Management Strategy hat on at the moment so I also explored the brochure for the mention of incineration's biggest risk - dioxins. You guessed it, it's not there. I looked on CRUK's website, which dismissed dioxins as "a group of chemicals that are formed unintentionally by industrial processes such as burning fuels and incinerating waste". The word 'unintentionally' stinks of appeasement. It's like the pharmaceutical euphemism 'side-effect' or the military one 'collateral damage'. We know it happens - but tough shit babe, you can't do anything about it.

Some press releases from CRUK even downplay research suggesting links between the environment and cancer - comments that wouldn't be out of place on a government or chemical company press page.

That environmental factors have become the silent elephant in the room invites accusations that CRUK aren't being entirely honest. The cancer charities should be out shouting on the streets as loudly about the environmental risk factors as they are about their new 'live healthy' guilt trip.

But if they did, would they suddenly find funding dry up?

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