Our impact

Our progress in bringing breast cancer prevention to the attention of policymakers

Breast Cancer UK collaborates with a range of civil society organisations at UK and EU level to strengthen public protection from harmful chemicals. We regularly engage with Ministers, MPs, Civil Servants and Public Health officials outlining our concerns and providing actionable policy proposals to address them.

We work to support the prevention of breast cancer by improving legislation to strengthen consumer protections, promote cancer prevention policies and advocate for a precautionary approach to reduce public exposure to harmful chemicals.

Here are recent examples of our work and its impact:

Parliamentary questions November 2022

Breast Cancer UK Trustee and Deputy Chair recently showed us how to make the most of an opportunity when she saw one. It all happened on the train to work where she spotted her MP, Bim Afolami. Seizing the moment she approached him to talk about the importance of Breast Cancer UK’s prevention work. This resulted in Mr Afolami paying her a personal visit to discuss how government policy can help reduce the incidence rates of breast cancer in the UK (which currently soar at 56000 new diagnoses in women every year) through effective prevention including recognising the importance of public protections from chemical pollution which has been linked to increased breast cancer risk.

We have worked tirelessly along with other concerned partners to bring evidence to the government of the importance of high-quality chemical regulations but we have been increasingly concerned about the slow progress in the government’s commitment to a new chemicals strategy and to prevent the UK chemicals regulation regime diverging from the standards we enjoyed prior to the UK’s departure from the EU.

Our Trustee was thrilled therefore to hear that Mr Afolami would table questions in parliament regarding these concerns. Read the questions and answers.

DEFRA extends timelines for transferring Chemical Safety Data into UK Chemicals Regime

In September 2020, DEFRA announced that it was extending the two-year timeline for companies to transfer EU data on chemicals into the UK chemicals regime due to come into force on 1st January 2021. Breast Cancer UK called for DEFRA to extend the timelines to ensure any UK chemicals regime has access to the chemical safety data necessary to effectively regulate harmful chemicals.

We continue to campaign for the UK to remain part of the EU REACH as the best way to protect public health and the environment from harmful chemicals linked to breast cancer.

EU announces ambitious new Cancer Plan and Chemicals Strategy

For many years, alongside our friends and partners at EDC-FREE Europe, we have campaigned for urgent legislative action on hormone disrupting chemicals. In 2020, the EU Commission announced the publications of ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’ and the ‘Chemicals Strategy for sustainability’. Both strategies contained welcome commitments to ban EDCs in consumer products and introduce legislation to reduce public exposure to carcinogens.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, we will continue to monitor EU developments to help influence UK cancer and chemicals strategies.

Commons Committee calls on Government to reduce public exposure to toxic chemicals

In July 2019, The Environmental Audit Committee published its report on Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Life, to which Breast Cancer UK contributed a written submission. We called for enhanced regulation of hormone disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and for the UK to remain a member of the EU REACH system to maintain existing public health and environmental protections. The report acknowledged the growing problem of chemical pollution and accepted our recommendations in full.

A core problem has been inadequate UK chemicals regulation, and the Committee urged Government action to address EDCs, which can be linked to breast cancer and give public health bodies responsibilities to regulate harmful chemicals. We continue to call for the Committee’s recommendations to be implemented without delay.

EU Environment ministers demand concerted EU action on chemicals 

In June 2019, The EU Environment Council adopted council conclusions on chemicals. These conclusions called on the Commission to deliver a strategy to tackle the problem of EDCs and the wider issue of environmental toxicity, including how it can be managed through the adoption of safer alternatives to protect vulnerable groups.

We have been working with our EDC-Free partners to ensure that the next Commission takes all necessary action to keep hazardous chemicals that contribute to breast cancer risk out of our daily lives, workplaces and consumer products.

NHS Long-Term Plan: Prevention brought into the mainstream policy agenda of the NHS

In January 2019, after many years of campaigning, NHS England committed to putting prevention at the heart of the NHS Long-Term Plan. This change of emphasis was essential given that 1 in 4 breast cancers could be prevented and that 60% of healthcare funding is currently spent on cure and rehabilitation, whilst only 5% is spent on prevention.

We are now engaging with NHS and government officials calling for the delivery of a long-term action plan which sets out ambitious goals for education, research funding and policy intervention to support breast cancer prevention.

No More Bisphenol A (BPA) 

For many years Breast Cancer UK has campaigned for a ban on BPA and its replacement with safer alternatives because of its links to increased breast cancer risk. In recent years, welcome steps have been taken by the European Commission to support the phasing out of BPA. In 2011, the Commission banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. In 2017, BPA was formally identified as a substance of very high concern and restrictions have been put in place to ban BPA in thermal paper by 2020.

We are now calling on the Commission to go further and ban the use of BPA across all food and drink packaging.

Chip in to fund the next research breakthrough

If you share our concerns about the links between harmful chemicals and breast cancer, please consider donating to help fund our next important project. By understanding the causes of breast cancer we can reduce the chances of our loved ones being diagnosed in the future. Thank you.