‘Urgent’ action call on growing occupational cancer menace

Occupational cancer is the large cause of work-related deaths and the numbers affected are increasing, leading experts have warned.

A position paper authored by an international group of work cancer specialists, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, notes “it is clear that occupational cancer now represents the primary cause for work-related deaths globally and in many regions of the world, and the numbers continue to grow. In spite of efforts for prevention and control by several international organisations, institutions and authorities, the level of occupational cancer mortality and morbidity has remained high.”

The paper cites recent estimates that indicated occupational cancer accounted for 27 per cent of the 2.4 million deaths due to work-related diseases. It notes: “In numerical terms, this estimate means that the number of deaths attributable to occupational cancer annually increased from 666,000 deaths in 2011 to 742,000 deaths in 2015. This increase could be explained by different variables such as the evidence on new carcinogens, the methods of estimation, changes in the industry distribution of workers and the growing and ageing of the population.”

The authors concluded that the need to define a global policy on occupational cancer prevention is an “urgent matter” requiring the “development of a priority action strategy to control and reduce occupational cancer as effectively as possible.”

Global trade union body ITUC has identified occupational cancer prevention as a priority issue, and has developed prevention guides and campaign materials.

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