So nice to see Nick Kristof’s NYT’s Op-Ed, “New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer“.
The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies. The cancer panel is releasing a landmark 200-page report on Thursday, warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.
I’ve read an advance copy of the report, and it’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.
Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.
So much is at blame, especially the bizarre presumption that chemicals are safe for us unless there is glaring evidence to the contrary. Isn’t it nice to know that there are over 80,000 chemicals in use but only a few hundred have been tested for safety? With 41% of us being diagnosed with cancer, it is not comforting to realize that “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”
In my discussion, Learning to Protect rather than Pollute ourselves & our Pets, I’ve been harping on these same issues (and for some time). Although this panel’s report is geared toward humans and not companion animals, the health of animal companions mirrors our own. Researchers have discovered a genetic cancer link between dogs and humans. Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Cancer Center, and Matthew Breen, Ph.D., North Carolina State University’s Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, collaborated on this research study. Drs. Modiano and Breen have found that humans and dogs share the same genetic basis for certain types of cancer.
Dr. David Waters, Co-director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program indicates, dogs and humans are the only two species that develop lethal prostate cancers. And, the breast cancer that affects dogs spreads to bones, just as it does in women. Further, osteosarcoma, which is the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, presents in the same way as it does for our teenagers. In fact, under a microscope, cancer cells from a teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a any breed dog’s bone cancer cells.
For many pet owners, the recent April 2007 pet food recall (which resulted in so many horrible deaths of both dogs and cats) was a huge wake-up call about the weak FDA regulations and enforcement, and inherent dangers in our food supply …. for our companion animals and ourselves. Yet, for me, it was the cancer-related deaths of my Ollie and Darcy, that drove home my current mission to educate and help others.
I am already incorporating the many recommendations of this Cancer Panel, for both myself and my dogs. The whole family (2 & 4-footed) has been using filtered drinking water since 1998. I have been home-cooking a 100% organic diet for my Goldens since 2005, and for us human folks, giving preference to foods grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones. We have grown our own vegetables, organically, with no pesticides for over 20 years, and use no lawn chemicals. I have used water or vinegar and water to clean the floors. I store water in glass or stainless steel containers, and microwave using ceramic or glass containers. I choose foods and garden products with fewer toxins or endocrine disruptors.
Will I ever know if any or all of these actions extend my life? Probably not. There are just so many variables, and one cannot discount the enormous genetic role. It is disheartening to know that researchers, Drs. Modiano and Breen, believe that because of the way the genomes have evolved, getting cancer may be inevitable for some humans and dogs.
They have concluded that despite millions of years of divergence, the evolving genomes of dogs and humans seem to have retained the mechanism associated with cancer, and that the conserved changes in the genomes have similar consequences in dogs and humans. I am looking forward to their current research which seeks to pinpoint risk factors for cancer in various breeds of dogs … especially since cancer is the leading cause of death in the Golden Retriever breed, Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphosarcoma leading the list.
I believe prevention is the best defense and only hope folks will begin to learn more about these issues, as natural health writer CJ Puotinen posits in her article on cancer prevention: “What could be better than curing your dog’s cancer? That’s easy! How about avoiding the illness in the first place?”
Part of the mission of the Land of PureGold Foundation is to support and promote holistically healthy and responsible dog care, as well as disseminate information on canine cancers. Dogs do not get to be by our sides for that long—the fun we share together, training and playing and living and loving, so woefully brief. That is why our hearts stop, and life slows to a halt, when we feel those lumps or hear the results of those dreaded biopsies.