HC Deb 08 June 1999 vol 332 cc454-5
9. Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives)

What assessment he has made of the influence of diet and environmental factors on the incidence of breast cancer. [85005]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Hutton)

The causation of most breast cancers is complex and has not been established but may involve several dietary, hormonal, environmental and hereditary factors. The influence of diet and nutrition on the incidence of breast cancer was considered by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy in the 1998 report "Nutritional Aspects of the Development of Cancer", a copy of which is in the Library.

Mr. George

I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. While it is of course necessary to co-ordinate proper screening, detection and treatment of breast cancer, does he agree that understanding the causes is as important—possibly more so—in the long run? Some companies produce arguably carcinogenic agrochemicals while making vast profits out of breast cancer treatments such as Tamoxifen. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important to give proper priority to research and its dissemination, so that perhaps this country will follow others in banning lindane?

Mr. Hutton

I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman said. He knows that the Government support a wide variety of research programmes examining this area and others. The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment recently considered the potential association between organochloride insecticides, which I think are the hon. Gentleman's concern, and breast cancer. I expect that it will prepare a draft statement at its June meeting, which should be available for publication early in July.

Miss Melanie Johnson (Welwyn Hatfield)

Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the importance of improving and modernising the equipment available for the detection of breast cancer? I believe that £100 million of lottery money will be made available for that. When, and on what projects will it be spent?

Mr. Hutton

I strongly agree with what my hon. Friend says; it is important that new investment goes into improving cancer services. The sum of more than £100 million from the new opportunities fund will make a most significant contribution to doing that. We expect the first resources to be available during the winter.