2006-03-24 Dr. Frederica Perera, the “DNA Damage Detective”. Prevention versus Cure.
ARTICLE BY HART HAIDN, INTRODUCING WORK OF DR. PERARA, CBC INTERVIEW MARCH 24, 2006
NOTE: See 2012 research, very important: 2012-05-23 Interview with Dr. David Crews, Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance, Chemical damage can be inherited by offspring through unlimited generations
- http://www.ccceh.org Columbia University, Centre for Children’s Environmental Health, Dr. Perara
- “The Current: Part 2 Frederica Perera” broadcast Friday, March 24 (Link no longer valid. I don’t know if CBC has it in archives?)http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2006/200603/20060324.html
- Wendy Mesley, CBC TV programme “Marketplace“, (March 11 and April 2), documentary on cancer (Wendy has cancer): (same as preceding, link no longer valid. http://www.cbc.ca/consumers/market/files/health/cancer/index.html )
The documentary asks the question: why isn’t the public being told?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
But, how often do you hear or read about disease prevention? Compare it with how often you hear or read about curing a disease. In our health care system the principle for spending is:
- An ounce of prevention is matched by a pound of cure.
It just doesn’t make sense. What makes it worse is that governments and disease corporations (Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke foundations) are all on the same track.
Governments conveniently hide behind the phrase “The Best Science We Have”, looking at the science with the most political and economic power behind it.
When I think about an analogy about the current levels of all kinds of diseases, from cancer to Parkinson’S Disease, the development in exposing the dangers of smoking comes to mind.
Due to a concerted effort of civil society and government regulations, smoking has almost become socially unacceptable. But it was a long struggle. Look at this excerpt from an article in USA Today:
“Government: Cover-up lasted 45 years By Wendy Koch and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
09/23/99- Updated 11:38 PM ET
WASHINGTON – On Dec. 15, 1953, a cloudy and windy day in New York City, top executives of the nation’s tobacco companies met at the Plaza Hotel to confront what they considered a crisis: studies showing a link between cigarettes and cancer.
They acted quickly. Less than three weeks later, they issued a “frank” statement insisting there was “no proof” that smoking causes lung cancer. “We believe the products we make are not injurious to health,” they said.
That meeting, according to a groundbreaking Clinton administration lawsuit filed Wednesday against tobacco companies, began a decades-long campaign to deceive the public about the health risks of smoking. The lawsuit, citing newly disclosed industry documents, says the industry knew even 45 years ago that smoking was deadly. …”
The situation was this: scientists working in the public interest had realized for some time the link between smoking and cancer and other lung diseases. Other scientists, working for the tobacco industry (either directly or indirectly) “proved” that this link did not exist. It is amazing:
the complete unwillingness of medical science to stand up against the interests of the tobacco industry for many decades – not until the evidence for mortality from smoking was monumental and overwhelming – illustrates how easily science falls prey to external pressures.
And industry got away with this for decades – also because governments did not take the warnings seriously. The blame that the tobacco industry could rake in billions for another five decades at the expense of an ignorant public must be put firmly on governments who we should be able to trust to protect us from harm.
How naïve this trust is becomes evident again when you look at some of the latest developments in trying to expose the environmental links to numerous diseases. The situation is not much different from the tobacco fiasco. For decades we have been warned about the harmful effects of a polluted environment.
One of the problems is that it is extremely difficult to establish clear cause and effect relations between environmental pollution (this includes food, particularly highly processed foods, household cleaners and so forth). The testing of the tens of thousands of synthetic substances that are released into the environment is woefully inadequate.
An article in Orion Magazine January/February 2006 editions states:
“A recent study of umbilical cord blood, collected by the Red Cross from ten newborns and analyzed in two different laboratories, revealed the presence of pesticides, stain removers, wood preservatives, heavy metals, and industrial lubricants, as well as the wastes from burning coal, garbage, and gasoline. Of the 287 chemicals detected, 180 were suspected carcinogens, 217 were toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 have been linked to abnormal development and birth defects in lab animals. …”
Anyway, you get the idea: science is not an objective and benevolent arena of human endeavor. Nor are governments capable of protecting us. We all have to do our own share and take on responsibility to protect ourselves, our families and communities.
Here are two more pieces of evidence. I recorded two CBC Radio ‘The Current’ shows.
The Current: Part 1 Thursday, March 2, 2006; interview with Wendy Mesley
The Current: Part 2 Friday, March 24, 2006; interview with Frederica Perera
A few weeks ago, the CBC’s Wendy Mesley appeared on The Current to tell us about the questions she began asking herself during her own battle with breast cancer. Questions like . why do people with a healthy lifestyle get cancer? What role does a polluted environment play in causing cancer? And why isn’t more work being done to understand the environmental causes of cancer?
We were flooded with mail from other cancer survivors and their loved ones, all expressing similar frustration and confusion over diagnoses that seemed to come out of no where. Well, award-winning cancer researcher Frederica Perera has been working for decades to shed light on the connections between the environment people live in and how that affects their risk of getting cancer.
Dr. Perera has been billed as a “DNA damage detective”. She teaches environmental health at Columbia University and is the Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Dr. Perera joined us from our New York studio.
Frederica P. Perera, Dr.P.H., Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH)
Dr. Perera’s areas of interest include environmental causes of disease, disease prevention, molecular epidemiology, environmental risks to children, environment- susceptibility interactions in cancer and developmental damage, breast and lung cancer, cancer prevention, chemoprevention, and risk assessment. Asthma prevention is also a part of the research of the CCCEH.
Molecular epidemiology is a relatively new discipline which merges highly sophisticated laboratory techniques with epidemiologic methods in order to use biomarkers in human tissue as indicators of potential risk of cancer and other diseases — hence as a tool in disease prevention. Under the direction of Dr. Perera, the program in Molecular Epidemiology has made substantial progress in validating biomarkers in populations with well-defined exposures and/or with those with a defined risk of cancer. The biomarkers include internal and molecular dosimeters of carcinogens such as DNA adducts, alterations in genes and chromosomes such as mutated oncogenes, and genetic susceptibility factors such as polymorphisms in genes controlling the metabolism of carcinogens. Susceptibility due to nutritional deficiencies is also one of her research interests. Her research has significant implications for risk assessment and disease prevention.
As Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, Dr. Perera leads a team of scientists, researchers, community activists, and other experts in studying the effects of pre and postnatal exposures to common urban air pollutants on children’s respiratory health and neurocognitive development. The Center works internationally, including studies in the United States, Poland, and China. As part of the Center’s Mothers and Newborns Study, Dr. Perera and her team are currently following a cohort of more than 500 women and their children (from in utero through age 5) in the low-income New York City neighborhoods of Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx. In addition to establishing widespread exposures to pollutants within the cohort, the study has found an association between prenatal exposures to air pollutants and pesticides, and reduced fetal growth.
Dr. Perera and her colleagues are increasingly focusing their efforts in the areas of prevention of carcinogenic, developmental and asthma risks to the infant and young child, chemoprevention, and environment-susceptibility interactions in breast and lung cancer.
Link to Center for Children’s Environmental Health http://www.ccceh.org