Cancer’s causes neglected

May 22, 2014

You report that cancer survival rates and expenditure on cancer research in the UK are both rising (“Survival rates up. Funding up. Hopes up”, Research Intelligence, 8 May), but fail to mention that the incidence of cancer has also risen – by 3 per cent in men and 7 per cent in women between 2000-02 and 2009‑11 (Cancer Research UK data, 2014).

So it is all the more surprising that expenditure on research into prevention represents only 3.6 per cent of total cancer research expenditure in the UK, while research on the causes of cancer has actually fallen, from 16.4 per cent to 9.2 per cent of the total between 2002 and 2011 (National Cancer Research Institute data). Within this figure, the steepest fall is in research into “exogenous factors in the origin and cause of cancer”, that is, environmental and occupational exposures. Research into the causes and prevention of cancer forms just a minor part of CRUK’s new research strategy, with no mention of research into potential causes such as pesticides and other chemical agents.

If prevention is better than cure, which in the case of cancer is surely true, are we getting our priorities right?

Paul Probyn
Cockfosters

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