In February 2021, the non-governmental organization Krebsliga (Swiss Cancer League) announced the publication of a report on the Environment and Cancer Forum, which took place on November 24, 2020. The event brought together various experts from academia, non-governmental organizations, as well as industry. Participants of the forum discussed through workshops and presentations the diverse interactions between the environment and cancer, including among others, endocrine disruptors, migration from food contact materials, and risks of chemical mixtures.
According to Joachim Schütz from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), approximately 10 % of all cancer cases can be traced back to environmental influences, and it is estimated that Europe alone will face over 100 million cancer cases in the next twenty years. To overcome this challenge, Schütz calls for closer collaboration between the use of cancer prevention measures and treatment therapies. To be effective, he discussed that it is vital to elucidate which environmental factors cause cancer but recognized this is not easy due to the difficulty of simulating the complexity of everyday life in experimental settings.
Federica Madia from the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission discussed in her presentation that many cancer cases are related to avoidable risk factors such as chemical pollution. Of all distributed chemicals in Europe, estimations suggest that up to 15% of substances could be carcinogens, mutagens, or toxicants for reproduction. Many studies still rely on animal testing, which has limited validity for human risk evaluation. Therefore, researchers from the JRC are testing new approaches for hazard and risk assessment of chemicals based on computer modeling and in vitro testing.
In her presentation, Jane Muncke, Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer at the Food Packaging Forum, talked about the migration of potentially harmful chemicals from food packaging materials. So far, only a few of over 100 000 potential substances used in food contact materials (FCMs) are specifically listed under existing regulation (see FCCdb database; FPF reported) and more research is needed to consider mixture effects. She also criticized that only mutagenic substances are restricted from use in FCMs, however, other cancerogenic chemicals such as e.g. acetaldehyde are still allowed in PET packaging. Therefore, Muncke sees a strong need for revision of the current FCM regulation.
The event was part of the Swiss National Strategy against Cancer (NSK) and was supported by the Swiss Office for the Environment (Bundesamt für Umwelt; BAFU) and the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (Bundesamt für Gesundheit; BAG).
Krebsliga (November 24, 2021). “Forum Umwelt und Krebs: Dialog für eine umweltbewusste Krebsprävention.” (in German, French)
Krebsliga (November 24, 2021). “Forum Umwelt und Krebs: Dialog für eine umweltbewusste Krebsprävention.” (pdf) (in German, French)