Press Release: Open letter to Breakthrough (Breast Cancer Now)

Press Release: 16/6/15

Open letter to Breakthrough Breast Cancer (Breast Cancer Now)

An open letter sent to Breakthrough Breast Cancer (now called Breast Cancer Now) calls on them to review their public literature and acknowledge the environmental and occupational links to breast cancer.

The letter signed by concerned organisations and scientists and addressed to Baroness Morgan expresses the hope and expectation that the merger between Breakthrough and Breast Cancer Campaign affords a timely opportunity for the new organisation, under her leadership, to make progressive changes to breast cancer prevention policies.

The signatories include Breast Cancer Consortium, Brighton Breast Cancer Action, Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland,  From Pink to Prevention, the Hazards Campaign, the Health and Environment Alliance EU, Dr. Jim Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith and the Women’s Environmental Network Scotland.

Specifically in relation to incidence, risk and prevention of breast cancer, we hope that future prevention policies will include the previously downgraded or overlooked roles of environmental and occupational risk factors in breast cancer.

The open letter calls upon Breakthrough (Breast Cancer Now) as a leading voice on the management, treatment and prevention of breast cancer in the UK, to use its public and political influence to shape a new vision for breast cancer policy; one that, from a more advanced and informed 21st century position regarding prevention, leads the cancer charity sector by:

  • acknowledging environmental and occupational links to breast cancer
  • acting upon environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer
  • embracing the precautionary principle as fundamental to all future work on the disease
  • making reference to the attached scientific reports and statements in the literature review for future public documents on breast cancer risk
  • providing fully referenced sources in all your future public information documents.

The signatories were gravely concerned to discover that in its public literature Breakthrough neither uses the term nor acknowledges the existence of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) and, even more importantly, their role in breast cancer.

We are not alone in our view that EDCs are one of the biggest public health threats of this century. The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) say EDCs are a global threat to health and the environment that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. An overview of the multiple scientific reports on the issue was sent along with the letter.

We believe that action on EDCs goes hand in hand in hand with the precautionary principle which in the response to our initial letter we were told: “We do not believe the balance of evidence currently supports the adoption of a precautionary principle at this time in the UK. (Letter from former CEO of Breakthrough Chris Askew February 2015)”

The UK is legally committed to the precautionary principle through its signature on a number of UN treaties including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Rio Declaration and subsequent Agenda 21. In choosing not to support the European-wide move for the adoption of ‘Precautionary Principle’ policies to protect humans, wildlife and the environment from the harmful effects of man-made toxics (CMRs and EDCs), we believe that Breakthrough is by-passing an opportunity, not only to broaden the scope of its prevention agenda, but also to make an immeasurably valuable contribution to preventive health in the UK. (April letter 2015)

From Pink to Prevention (FPTP) has been in correspondence with Breakthrough Breast Cancer since 2014 because of statements made and conclusions drawn in their booklet Breast cancer risk – the facts. The booklet was due for reprint last year so FPTP took the opportunity to write and ask about some of the assumptions.

Primarily the ‘fact’ that in the booklet risk of breast cancer from exposures via our environment or workplace fall into the same risk category as bumping your breast or wearing an underwire bra. FPTP were also quite shocked to discover that lifelong exposure to harmful chemicals in our environment and workplaces was dismissed as scientifically unproven or lacking in sufficient evidence to warrant it being considered a risk factor or unlikely to affect risk of breast cancer.

FPTP sent initial letter in December 2014 asking for the literature review that formed the basis for Breakthrough’s booklet. We received a reply from the then CEO Chris Askew in February along with the literature review for the booklet.

In the meantime Breakthrough and Breast Cancer Campaign amalgamated to form Breast Cancer Now and Baroness Delyth Morgan has returned to become CEO of the newly formed charity so we redirected our reply to Chris Askew’s letter to Baroness Morgan.

The subsequent open letter reflects international concern in relation to the lack of attention paid to environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer and primary prevention. We hope to see some progressive work from this newly formed charity and await a positive response to our letter.

Contact details: Helen Lynn (07960033687) Deborah Burton (07779 203455)

PDF of Press Release

Notes to editor:

  1. In campaigning to move the breast cancer agenda from Pink to Prevention the FPTP campaign team is pre-occupied with one BIG fundamental question. The correspondence with Breakthrough was initiated by FPTP because of the public information booklet, ‘Breast cancer risk – the facts’. This has become the first target for the BIG question that underpins the objectives of our campaign – to expose the barriers to preventive  measures for the major cancer affecting women worldwide.
  2. An endocrine disruptor is an exogenous chemical or mixture that interferes with any aspect of hormone action.