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	cancer, reproductive, cardiovascular

Program Description

NIOSH Evaluation of its Cancer and REL Policies
NIOSH is currently reviewing its cancer and related REL policies to ensure that they reflect current scientific and risk management practices

The mission of the Cancer, Reproductive, and Cardiovascular Research Program (CRC) is to provide national and international leadership for the prevention of work-related diseases using a scientific approach to gather and synthesize information, create knowledge, provide recommendations, and deliver products and services to those who can effect prevention. The program strives to fulfill its mission through:

  • High Quality Research: NIOSH will continually strive for high quality research and prevention activities that will lead to reductions in occupational illnesses among workers.
  • Practical Solutions: The NIOSH CRC is committed to the development of practical solutions to the complex problems that cause occupational diseases among workers.
  • Partnerships: We recognize that collaborative efforts in partnership with labor, industry, government, and other stakeholders are usually the best means of achieving successful outcomes. Fostering these partnerships is a cornerstone of the NIOSH CRC.
  • Research to Practice ( r2p ): We believe that our research only realizes its true value when put into practice. Every research project within the NIOSH CRC formulates a strategy to promote the transfer and translation of research findings into prevention practices and products that will be adopted in the workplace.

The CRC includes projects addressing a wide variety of health endpoints. As the name implies, the concentration of projects within this program include research related to many types of cancer, reproductive health, and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, CRC is the NIOSH program that includes projects related to the evolving areas of occupational neurologic and renal disease.

Occupational Cancer

Based on well-documented associations between occupational exposures and cancer, it is estimated that approximately 20,000 cancer deaths and 40,000 new cases of cancer each year in the United States are attributable to occupation; additionally, it is estimated that less than 2% of chemicals in commerce have been tested for carcinogenicity. To continue to investigate and prevent the occupational cancers of the future requires the development of new methods to address etiologic and intervention questions; these new methods may involve advances in molecular biology, analytical chemistry, and genetics.

Reproductive Health

Disorders of reproduction include birth defects, developmental disorders, spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, preterm birth, and various other disorders affecting offspring; they also include reduced fertility, impotence, and menstrual disorders. Infertility is currently estimated to affect more than 2 million U.S. couples (one in 12 couples find themselves unable to conceive after 1 year of unprotected intercourse). Although numerous occupational exposures have been demonstrated to impair fertility (e.g., lead, some pesticides, and solvents), the overall contribution of occupational exposures to male and female infertility is unknown.

Occupational Cardiovascular Disease

Similarly, little is known about occupational risks for cardiovascular disease. A few specific toxins encountered occupationally are known to affect the heart, most prominently carbon disulfide, nitroglycerin, and carbon monoxide. There is substantial evidence that environmental tobacco smoke, extreme heat, and extreme cold are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and it is presumed that they are risk factors when they are encountered in the occupational setting. In addition, while the linkages are not yet understood, numerous studies show a relationship between heart disease and depression and exposure to stress at work. Other work-related exposures potentially related to cardiovascular disease include occupational noise exposure, shift work, and physical activity at work.

Further epidemiologic research into all these areas is warranted. CRC, which involves scientists from multiple NIOSH Divisions and Laboratories, includes a large extramural component, and partners with a wide range of institutions, will do this by

  • Conducting rigorous etiologic, health assessment, and exposure assessment research in working populations;
  • Providing data for development of standards and recommendations for control of occupational health hazards;
  • Conducting basic and applied laboratory research, with a focus on introducing new laboratory-based technology into population-based studies, to investigate precursors of occupational disease or illness and biological factors (in areas including pathology, physiology, immunology, and allergy) responsible for occupational health problems;
  • Conducting laboratory, field studies, and demonstrations to develop and/or evaluate engineering control technology and interventions for biological, chemical, and physical hazards; and
  • Developing and transferring information and providing recommendations to foster prevention of occupational disease through targeted information dissemination, training, and the development of quantitative and qualitative risk assessments.