NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Setting the Record Straight on Cancer Risks

September 18, 2003

Much of the information disseminated to the public about cancer risk factors is distorted and dangerous, say Kenneth Green and Liv Fredericksen of the Fraser Institute in Vancouver.

For example, people are often told that synthetic chemicals at normal environmental levels are a major cause of cancer in humans, but neither epidemiology nor toxicology studies support this. Using recent research, the authors set the record straight on other misperceptions:

  • Reducing the use of synthetic pesticides will not help prevent diet-related cancer.
  • Many natural pesticides, which make up 99.99 percent of all pesticides that humans ingest, have been found carcinogenic in lab rats, but only in high-dose trials.
  • About 60,000 deaths could be prevented each year in the United States if the $140 billion earmarked for ineffective environmental regulations went toward more cost effective programs.
  • The average toxin control program costs 146 times more per life-year saved than the average medical procedure.

Regulatory efforts to reduce low-level human exposure to synthetic chemicals (many of which haven't been conclusively linked to cancer) distract from programs to improve public understanding of how life-style choices (e.g., the role of diet) affect cancer rates.

Source: Kenneth Green and Liv Fredricksen, "Misconceptions about the Causes of Cancer," March 2003, Fraser Institute.


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