12/03/2013 03:19 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2014

A Call for Cancer Prevention Action

I recently read a story in the Forbes blogs headlined "Chemicals Billionaire Jon Huntsman Boosts Children's Cancer Research With $50 Million Donation," by Kerry A. Dolan. According to the blog post, Huntsman realized that not nearly enough research is being done on children's cancers and mentioned a recent study performed at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The study showed that for a child diagnosed with cancer, the risk of siblings getting cancer is double that of normal populations. While I am excited about Mr. Huntsman's interest in getting answers on cancer, I want to use this opportunity to encourage him and others to work with us and to expand on these efforts in the area of cancer prevention.

The National Cancer Institute reports that researchers have estimated that as many as 2 in 3 cases of cancer (67 percent) are linked to some type of environmental factor, including use -- or abuse -- of tobacco, alcohol, and food, as well as exposures to radiation, infectious agents, and substances in the air, water, and soil. As a nonscientist, I find myself curious about the study and the risk of siblings getting cancer. I wonder if it's not because they are siblings but rather because of where and how they live?

If many cancers are preventable and there is $50 million on the table to invest, why not spend it with a laser focus on identifying and implementing strategies to reduce cancer incidence?

For example, let's clarify and focus on chemicals and their effect on cancer risk. Today we have over 80,000 chemicals in the marketplace. Some of those chemicals are very good and helpful; however, few are well characterized for their risk to human health or the environment.

Cancer prevention should not be just experiments performed in a laboratory or a reason for building a new medical center, but rather cancer prevention must include looking at the choices we make in our everyday lives and in business. Today we need more action to ensure that the smart business decisions factor in reducing cancer incidence. The science exists today, unlike during the industrial era, showing that what we do in the workplace and in our homes matters for human health and the health of the planet.

For many cancers, the rates are continuing to rise. Now is the time to engage industry leaders in the journey to achieve cancer prevention. Less cancer, less incidences of cancer need to be a shared priority for all. The organizational mission of Less Cancer is to engage individuals, communities and industry leaders in a partnership that focuses on our goal of making cancer prevention a reality.