Precautionery tales: Exploring the obstacles to debating the primary prevention of breast cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Incidence of breast cancer is rising globally, with little attention paid by government health planners to upstream causal factors. The research reported here used qualitative methods to explore the usefulness of creating opportunities for dialogue between various 'communities of interest' - laypeople, health activists, environmentalists, scientists, health professionals and politicians - concerned about possible environmental factors in breast cancer aetiology. The paper reports discussion of some of the methodological difficulties in investigating the causes of breast cancer, what constitutes 'evidence' and the perceived obstacles to adopting a precautionary approach to the prevention of breast cancer. The key difference between viewpoints concerns the appropriate evidence for - and response to - risk. We have argued that these differences are both ideological and epistemological; we are concerned here to identify how a tripartite categorization of positions is atticulated through participants' narrative accounts and arguments about how science contributes to the basis for policy making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-135
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


  • aetiology
  • cancer causation
  • responses to risk
  • LAY
  • RISK

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