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President’s Cancer Panel Report on Environmental Risk

The official National Cancer Institute report on the “unacceptable” burden of cancer stemming from industrial chemical pollutants is strongly worded, but lacks sufficient dietary guidance.

October 23, 2012 |
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Sources Cited


Image thanks to: quinn.anya.


The official U.S. presidential cancer panel report from the National Cancer Institute on reducing environmental cancer risk. What can we do now? That’s what we need. We know there’s a problem, what can we do about it.

First, to review: one and a half million new cases of cancer a year. Men, women, and children, and half million deaths. “With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action. Especially children, who are considerably more vulnerable than adults to increased cancer risk from virtually all harmful exposures.

Unfortunately, the report concludes, “the grievous harm from this group of carcinogens has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program. The American people—even before they are born—are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures. The Panel urges you, Mr. President, most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

Strong words, but, what can we do? They don’t give much dietary guidance. Basically they just say choose organic and free-range: “Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues. Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications if it is available. Avoiding or minimizing consumption of processed, charred, and well-done meats will reduce exposure to carcinogenic heterocyclic amines and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.”

Unfortunately, they do not go into specifics in terms of which types of fruits and vegetables, and which types of meat are the most contaminated. I assume they avoided going into the details so as to not upset any particular agriculture sectors, but it does diminish the report’s practical usefulness.

Thankfully, though, there is a large body of new evidence now in which thousands of different food samples have been tested, to help guide our day to day grocery store decisions, [which we'll cover next.]

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

How contaminated is the American public with chemical pollutants? See yesterday's video-of-the-day CDC Report on Environmental Chemical Exposure. My previous videos on organic foods include Can Pesticides Be Rinsed Off? and Cancer Fighting Berries. I also have videos on livestock growth hormones and feed additives. For more on processed meat check out any of my 25 videos on the subject including When Nitrites Go BadBacon and Botulism and Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat. Starting tomorrow I'll start detailing some foods that may be particularly contaminated. In the meanwhile please feel free to check out any of the other thousand topics covered on the site.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk and  How Chemically Contaminated Are We?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    How contaminated is the American public with chemical pollutants? See yesterday’s video-of-the-day CDC Report on Environmental Chemical Exposure. My previous videos on organic foods include Can Pesticides Be Rinsed Off? and Cancer Fighting Berries. I also have videos on livestock growth hormones Anabolic Steroids in Meat and feed additives Drug Residues in Meat. For more on processed meat check out any of my 25 videos on the subject including When Nitrites Go Bad, Bacon and Botulism and Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat. Starting tomorrow I’ll start detailing some foods that may be particularly contaminated. In the meanwhile please feel free to check out any of the other thousand topics covered on the site.

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • BCBilly

    …and that would be the buy pink program?

    • BCBilly

       I couldn’t help myself

  • BCBilly

    On a more serious note. 

    Canada’s Food guide still pushes Dairy and some meat, with enough loop holes to justify something close to the western diet.

    The denial is disappointing.  Perhaps we need a green ribbon campaign to raise awareness.

  • R Ian Flett

    This is a very important cause and, if you seriously wish to avoid food contamination, a vegan diet is probably the best starting point.
    It’s recently been discovered that plastics in the ocean do not bio-degrade in many cases, but merely get smaller and smaller in particle size over time until they can be absorbed by the lowest creatures in the food chain. This is already out of control and there is enough plastic out there already to potentially contaminate all seafood sources. Whilst more research urgently needs to be done, we may have to revert to marine farming to eliminate this catastrophe. Current fish oils (and other fish products) should now require labelling for plastics contamination. We are already aware of fish stock mutations assumed to be oestrogenic from female, contraceptive pill, use leaching into the oceans, but plastics have similar hormonal effects.

    Check out this Australian Science TV program on the subject

  • Valnaples

    Doc, if you *have* to buy conventionally grown veggies, what kind of wash do you recommend, please? thank you for all you do!

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Valnaples, I’d recommend using the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce:  It will help you determine which conventional produce it is best to avoid and which is okay to eat.