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Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, scheduled to be launched by the European Commission on 3 February, has the potential to mark the beginning of a new era in cancer prevention. But the EU’s response to the growing challenge of tackling the leading cause of deaths in the EU can only succeed if it includes hands-on strategies to address environmental pollutants.

Today, cancer causes 1 in 4 deaths in the European Union and continues to be the first cause of death at work on the continent. Frequent exposure to some environmental factors, such as air pollution, pesticides and endocrine disrupting chemicals, significantly increases our cancer risk.

European institutions and governments must take action to prevent cancer. In the run-up to the launch of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, HEAL has listed four demands against which we will measure the plan:

Fight cancer with the most vulnerable in mind

    • Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan must focus action on vulnerable groups to ensure protection of the broader population, by applying prevention and precaution where and when vulnerability is being expressed. Nobody should be exposed to cancer-causing pollutants in their daily lives or at work.
    • The Plan must make occupational cancer data visible. It should ensure that employers comply with the established exposure limit values, recognise occupational carcinogens, and support the education of health professionals to collect gender disaggregated data on workplace exposure for existing cancer registries.

Prevent cancer from farm to fork

    • The Plan needs to ensure the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy strives to end our intake of pesticide residues linked to cancer, and revises outdated EU legislation on food contact materials. This will guarantee carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals associated with increased cancer risk are eliminated.

Prevent cancer by upholding Europe’s zero pollution ambition in every part of the environment

    • Europe’s Beating Cancer plan needs to be closely linked to the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and other chemical policy frameworks, in order to rationalise and simplify the EU’s regulations on chemicals and pesticides for substances causing cancer.
    • The future Plan should include plans to close the current legislative gap on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and apply cross-sectoral coherence. EDCs should not be allowed in toys, cosmetics, food contact materials, or any other consumer products.
    • The Plan needs to lower the tolerance to concentration of air pollutants in both outdoor and indoor air, as there is no safe level of air pollution. The EU should speed up alignment of EU legal air pollution limits on the WHO guidelines to enter into force by the end of the current mandate.

Raise people’s awareness on carcinogens in their daily life’s environment

    • Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan should aim to revise the European Code of Cancer and give citizens information on ways to limit exposure to environmental carcinogens at work.
    • It should support European member states and civil society in sharing best practices and actions on addressing environmental factors in national cancer plans.

HEAL is proud to count many members with a focus on cancer prevention who have contributed their views on the EU Beat Cancer Roadmap, including the European Cancer Leagues, Kom Op Tegen Kanker, Action for Breast Cancer Foundation, Breast Cancer UK, Cancer Prevention and Education Society, and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention.