IIAC refuses to recognise two asbestos cancers

The body that advises the UK government on additions to the ‘prescribed industrial disease’ list has said cancers of the larynx or ovary linked to asbestos exposure should not be added to the list.

The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) reviewed the evidence for prescription – including a condition on the list eligible for government Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit payments – after a request from the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum. This was prompted by the publication in 2012 of an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) monograph that concluded “there is sufficient evidence in humans that asbestos causes mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovary.” Lung cancer and mesothelioma related to asbestos are already recognised for payouts, but cancers of the larynx and ovary are not.

Declining to add cancer of the larynx caused by asbestos to the list, IIAC noted “that the evidence of a doubling of risk of laryngeal cancer associated with asbestos exposure remains inconsistent.” For cancer of the ovary, IIAC “concluded that exposures to asbestos probably increase the risk of ovarian cancer and may do so by more than two-fold if very high.” It said however the exposure level causing a doubling of risks is difficult to define so IIAC “does not therefore recommend prescription for cancer of the ovary in relation to asbestos exposure.”

Critics of the IIAC system say the doubling of risk criteria it uses rules out most occupational cancers and is an arbitrary rule that sets an unfair benchmark not required by the regulations governing IIAC’s operation. Cancer of the larynx caused by asbestos is already recognised for state compensation payouts in countries including Germany, France, Denmark and Italy.

IIAC summary and Cancers of the larynx or ovary and work with asbestos: IIAC information note, February 2015. IARC Monograph 100C, 2012. Risks 692.

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