Manifesto Pledge 1: Primary Prevention | Breast Cancer UK

Manifesto Pledge 1: Primary Prevention

Prioritising the Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer UK is calling for the prioritisation of the primary prevention of breast cancer. 

Despite advances in treatment and early diagnosis, breast cancer remains a devastating and traumatic illness which has a profound, long term impact on those affected by it.  The financial costs of breast cancer are also enormous.  The costs to the UK of breast cancer alone, is an estimated £1.5 billion each year [1, 2].   The NHS is already under tremendous pressure and will not be able to cope with the rising numbers of people being diagnosed and living longer with the disease.  The best way to relieve pressure on the NHS is to prevent as many incidences of the disease as possible.     

However, current UK policy does not pay adequate attention to the primary prevention of the disease.    We are not doing enough to identify and eliminate the causes of the disease.  The percentage of UK cancer research funding that goes towards the aetiology (understanding the causes) of breast cancer has halved over the last 10 years.  In 2002, £940,572 (5.1% of total breast cancer research spending) went towards research to identify exogenous factors in the origin and cause of cancer, which include occupational exposures, infectious agents and environmental and lifestyle factors.  This has decreased steadily over the last ten years and in 2013 this figure stood at just £251,535 (just 0.6% of total breast research funding) [3]. 

If we are to stop cancer before it starts, we must invest further in finding out what causes it and dedicate resources to generating a strategy to help prevent exposure to those factors which might increase our risk of developing the disease. 

Our manifesto pledge on the primary prevention of breast cancer calls for: 

  • The UK Government to establish a Breast Cancer Prevention Strategy which focuses on the primary prevention of the disease  to add to the current work on secondary prevention (ie screening and tests), early diagnosis and the search for a cure. 
  • All National Cancer Plans, for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to include reducing exposures to hazardous chemicals, especially carcinogens and EDCs, as preventable risk factors for breast cancers
  • All National Cancer Plans to actively promote and fund research into the role environmental pollutants and harmful chemicals play in increasing the risk of breast cancers; 
  • The UK Government to ensure that chemicals used in consumer products are fully tested for their potential to disrupt hormones.

Also read our submission to the Cancer Task Force

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[1] Luengo-Fernandez R et al. (2013). Economic burden of cancer across the European Union: a population-based cost analysis. Lancet Oncology 14: 1165-1174[M1]  

[2] (Accessed April 14th, 2015)

[3] Data on top 6 cancers by research funding (2014) (accessed April 14th 2015)

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