EWG Original Research
Rethinking Carcinogens
New view of cancer development focuses on subtle, combined effects

By Curt DellaValle, EWG Senior Scientist

Thursday, July 16, 2015


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That old adage is certainly true for cancer. Despite great advances in treatments and therapies, preventing the disease from ever occurring will always be the best option.

EWG is dedicated to making cancer prevention a public health priority. And new research from the Halifax Project, a collaboration of more than 300 scientists brought together by the non-profit organization Getting to Know Cancer, shines an even brighter light on the need for prevention strategies by investigating new ways in which toxic chemicals in our environment may cause cancer. The Halifax Project’s enlightening research is featured in a special issue of the scientific journal Carcinogenesis. It’s a huge step forward for prevention.

The Halifax Project team investigated 85 common chemicals not known to be carcinogenic on their own and found that 50 can disrupt cancer-related pathways (known as the Hallmarks of Cancer) at low doses typically encountered in the environment. The researchers go on to propose that combinations of these chemicals could cause cancer by disrupting multiple pathways and overwhelming the body’s defenses. This thinking is in-line with the current understanding of cancer as a multi-step process.