Saving the Planet--and Preventing Myeloma
In recent weeks, you may have seen full-page newspaper ads signed by 160 award-winning scientists from around the world pleading for funding to help save the planet in the face of climate change. This week, the United Nations convened what the New York Times called "the largest gathering of world leaders ever devoted to climate change." The need is clear, but momentum to take action has been strangely lacking.
Toxic chemicals not only affect our planet, they affect the humans who inhabit it. On September 10, the IMF held a congressional briefing in Washington DC that presented information about the link between chemicals at the 9/11 sites and cancer. There are clear links between exposure to certain environmental toxins and myeloma, but the cause of myeloma has typically been listed as unknown. There is no momentum to investigate further or try to prevent myeloma.
We have knowledge about environmental toxins that could help make myeloma a preventable disease; there is a long list of chemicals that cause cancer, and there are thousands more--equally or more toxic--in widespread use that have never been tested to see if they cause cancer.
Where is the motivation to use energy and chemicals wisely, and to begin de-contaminating our planet and its people?
Ever so slowly, the tide is beginning to turn. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced this week it will sell assets in fossil fuel companies and invest in cleaner alternatives. Germany is building massive wind farms off shore to make a meaningful contribution to cleaner energy generation. The European Commission now requires toxicology testing for all new chemicals, and older chemicals are under much tighter review. Reduced use of chemicals is now on the agenda. And innovative, environmentally sensitive companies such as Pylantis are working to replace petrochemical plastics with non-toxic, recyclable and compost-ready alternatives. Even China has announced a multi-billion-yen program to reduce and shift away from pollution.
A study published recently in the journal Nature illustrates the need to eliminate toxic chemicals, not just in the environment, but in our diets as well. According to NPR, the study suggests that for some people, diet sodas may alter "gut microbes in a way that increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes." The change in gastrointestinal microbes leading to diabetes and obesity is also linked to myeloma and other cancers (breast cancer and certain pediatric cancers), again demonstrating that there is a multi-system, multi-step disease causation process. In the case of diet soda, it is potentially a reversible process.
Reversing our exposure to toxic chemicals requires recognition of their effects: agricultural run-off leaks into rivers, lakes, and oceans, and then into fish and into food, causing DNA damage and reducing the strength of the immune system. Inflammation triggers the growth of damaged plasma cells in the case of myeloma, or of other cells, causing other types of cancer.
Cancer prevention requires a multifaceted approach that focuses on eliminating ALL toxic chemicals. Safe chemicals, real food, clean water, and clean energy are critical elements for insuring our good health.
Is it too late? Let's hope not! We really need our planet--one on which myeloma is decreasing, not increasing.
I invite members of the myeloma community who have an interest in raising awareness about pollution and toxic chemicals to think about what might be done to change the momentum and get rid of the lethargy! I welcome your thoughts!
Dr. Brian G.M. Durie serves as Chairman of the International Myeloma Foundation and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.