Canadian study highlights high work cancer toll

Canadian research has identified the high toll each year from work-related cancers.

The study, Burden of Occupational Cancer in Ontario, which concluded there are ‘many opportunities’ to reduce the number of occupational cancers, was produced jointly by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) and Cancer Care Ontario’s Population Health and Prevention team.

It found solar radiation, asbestos, diesel engine exhaust and crystalline silica had the largest estimated impact on cancer burden and also the highest number of exposed workers in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.

Approximately 450,000 Ontario workers are exposed, causing an estimated 1,400 non-melanoma skin cancer cases per year, according to the study. Fewer than 55,000 workers are exposed to asbestos, but the potent carcinogen is estimated to cause 630 lung cancers, 140 mesotheliomas, 15 laryngeal cancers and fewer than five ovarian cancers annually.

About 301,000 workers are exposed to diesel exhaust fumes every year, the study found, causing 170 lung and 45 bladder cancer cases. An estimated 142,000 Ontario workers are exposed to crystalline silica, which annually causes almost 200 lung cancer cases. The paper adds that shiftwork “may be responsible” for 180 to 460 new cases of breast cancer in the province a year.

“I can’t count the number of times that I have talked about how important it is to prevent exposure to carcinogens, but raising awareness doesn’t always lead to action,” said OCRC director Paul Demers, who is leading the study.

“I think the numbers are important to make this real and push action towards preventing exposure to these causes of cancer.” This is the first publication in the project; a Canada-wide picture is expected within about a year.


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