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February 8, 2024

Bob Woods MBE gives a personal commentary on rising cancer rates

So many people will have sympathy for King Charles’ cancer diagnosis as we would sympathise for any of our own family, friends, and colleagues who contract this awful condition. 


In 1950, fewer than 4 males per 100,000 would die from cancer but in 2005 it exceeded 15 per 100,000 a fourfold increase despite vast improvements in treatment. These statistics via the  International Agency for Research on Cancer for the World Health Organization are a cause for major concern. 


Furthermore, this is not mainly because we are living longer (which we are by degree), Cancer Research UK reports that since the early 90’s cancer incidence in young people (newborns to 24 years old) have increased by 19%; 25 to 49 years old have increased by 22%; 50 to 74 years old have increased by 13%; and 75 years old have increased by 9%. Now at age 69, I recall when I was a young man a forecast that 1 in 8 of us would suffer from cancer. But now, the NHS states that 1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. 


Whilst the science is extremely complex, there are a growing number of academics who believe ubiquitous trace toxicity will be one factor at play in driving these awful trends. There are almost 200,000 chemicals used in everyday products throughout the West. In 2017 The Royal College of Physicians stated that it was not correct to state that there could be safe levels for any pollutant because the potential synergistic effects of a number of toxins could trigger ill health in a way that any one pollutant might not. Our bodies are continuously trying to detox a burden of chemicals to try to keep us healthy. 


Quite recently, two books stand out that focus on trace toxicity, but in very different ways. Stephanie Seneff’s Toxic Legacy explores the possible role of glyphosate (Roundup) in potentially acting as a catalyst in a very wide range of health issues, including cancers. Stephenie Seneff holds a very senior research post at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) one of the most highly regarded academic research institutions in the world. 


A second book focuses, not on cancer, but on declining fertility, and in particular the well-documented fall in male semen counts of 50% in the last 50 years. The author, Dr Shanna Swan, now in her 80s has made this her life’s work, having carried out the pioneering research. Her book is ominously titled Countdown – again, trace toxicity in the form of a category defined as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is thought to play a role. 


There must be a reason why the percentage increase in incidence is greater in younger rather than older people. Whilst more older people will contract cancer, why is the rate of increase greater in the young? The answer to this question will be complex, but I am conscious that born in 1954, I grew up from infancy into young adulthood in a world largely devoid of chemical herbicides, pesticides, plastics, and far fewer chemicals generally. Today the impact may start in the womb.  


Bob Woods MBE


Bob Woods MBE is the Founder of He is the Founder and Senior Adviser at Mattioli Woods. He is a supporter of the University of Leicester’s Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability.


Listen to Bob Woods explain how exposure to everyday chemicals were affecting his health in this short video.


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