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Reducing cancer panic
Date:2/6/2008

New research has allayed some panic about suspected cancer-causing agents, such as deodorants, coffee and artificial sweeteners. A risk assessment tool has been developed through the Cancer Control Program at South Eastern Sydney & Illawarra Health (SESIH) by a University of New South Wales (UNSW) researcher, Professor Bernard Stewart.

Our tool will help establish if the level of risk is high say, on a par with smoking or unlikely such as using deodorants, artificial sweeteners and drinking coffee or fluoridated water or at risk bands in between, said Professor Stewart.

The media are filled with reports about possible causes of cancer: most commonly, a new and unexpected exposure to a previously suspected carcinogen.

Its one thing to know that arsenic is carcinogenic - but quite another to distinguish between different methods of exposure. Thats what this approach achieves, said Professor Stewart. For instance, smelter workers who are exposed to arsenic emissions are much more likely to develop cancer than children who have played on climbing frames constructed from arsenic-treated timber but the carcinogen is the same.

Until now there have only been mathematical risk assessments, which are complicated and of limited application.

Our approach can be used whenever carcinogenic risk can be implied, said Professor Stewart.

In an issue of the journal Mutation Research Reviews, the newly developed procedure has been applied to more than than sixty situations, ranging from active smoking to electromagnetic fields in the workplace which are all deemed to offer some degree of carcinogenic risk. Consequently, each situation can be located within one of five bands corresponding to proven, likely, inferred, unknown or unlikely risk of carcinogenic outcome.

Surveys suggest that tobacco smoking is correctly identified as the major cause of cancer, but a host of other situations calling on a mobile phone,
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Contact: Bernard Stewart
Bernard.Stewart@SESIAHS.HEALTH.NSW.GOV.AU
61-293-828-249
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

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