Cancer and the Environment

This Cancer and the Environment booklet was created by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in response to many public requests for information. The content has been guided by responses from a series of focus groups that were conducted prior to producing the booklet. People from local communities throughout the country participated in these groups.

The Cancer and the Environment booklet addresses concerns about the connection between cancer and exposure to toxic substances in the environment. It contains information about which types of substances are either known to cause or likely to cause cancer, and what can be done to reduce exposures to them. It also explains how scientists discover which substances are likely to cause cancer.

Although toxic substances may cause other health effects, cancer is the focus of this booklet.

At the end of the booklet, you will find information about the government agencies responsible for reducing exposures to harmful substances and where to go for more information. These agencies develop policies to limit our exposure to agents that can be hazardous to our health such as lead in gasoline and paint, asbestos in building insulation, bacteria in our water supplies, air pollutants, and pesticides. Some harmful exposures, however, result from personal choices or lifestyles.

The good news is that a large number of cancers can be prevented. It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of all cancer cases are linked to environmental causes. This number may even be higher. Many of these are linked to lifestyle factors that can be modified. For example, we know that one-third of all the cancer deaths in this country could be prevented by eliminating the use of tobacco products. In addition, about 25 to 30 percent of the cases of several major cancers are associated with obesity and physical inactivity.

Cancer and the Environment download booklet

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