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OCCUPATIONAL CANCER

Cancer is a group of different diseases that have the same feature, the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. Each different type of cancer may have its own set of causes. Many factors play a role in the development of cancer. The importance of these factors varies depending on the type of cancer. A person's risk of developing a particular cancer is influenced by a combination of factors that interact in ways that are not fully understood. Some of the factors include:

  • Personal characteristics such as age, sex, and race
  • Family history of cancer
  • Diet and personal habits such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption
  • The presence of certain medical conditions
  • Exposure to cancer-causing agents in the environment
  • Exposure to cancer-causing agents in the workplace

In many cases, these factors may act together or in sequence to cause cancer.

Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to substances that have tested as carcinogens in animal studies. However, less than 2% of chemicals manufactured or processed in the U.S. have been tested for carcinogenicity(1). Based on well-documented associations between occupational exposures and cancer, it has been estimated that 4% to 10% of U.S. cancers (48,000 incident cases annually) are caused by occupational exposures(2). Key to all occupational exposures is that virtually all such exposures can be prevented (3-5).

NIOSH Evaluation of its Cancer and REL Policies

NIOSH is currently reviewing its cancer (carcinogen) and related Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) policies to ensure that they reflect current scientific and risk management practices.

Cancer Clusters

Carcinogenic Agents

Regulation and Policy

Surveillance

  • NIOSH Data & Statistics by Industry Sector - Cancer
    Click on one of the eight Sector Tabs at the top of the screen to find available cancer statistics for that Sector
  • Work-Related Lung Disease Surveillance System
    The Work-Related Lung Disease (WoRLD) Surveillance System, produced by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), presents up-to-date summary tables, graphs, and figures of occupationally-related respiratory disease surveillance data on respiratory conditions including cancers, the pneumoconioses, and occupational asthma and other airways diseases. For many of these diseases, selected data on related exposures are also presented.
  • Training to Improve the Industry and Occupation Information in Cancer Registries
    NIOSH developed a training module to improve both the quality and the quantity of industry and occupation information captured from hospital and clinic records in order to increase the value of using this information for public health surveillance and research with the ultimate goal of decreasing the incidence of cancers related to workplace exposures.

References

Straif K [2008]. The burden of occupational cancer. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 65(12):787-788.

Ward EM, Schulte PA, Bayard S, Blair A, Brandt-Rauf P, Butler MA, et al [2003]. Priorities for development of research methods in occupational cancer. Environ Health Perspect 111:1-12.

Boffetta P [2004]. Epidemiology of environmental and occupational cancer. Oncogene. 23:6392-6403.

Landrigan PJ [1996]. The prevention of occupational cancer. CA Cancer J Clin. 46:67-69.

Siemiatycki J, Richardson L, Straif K, et al [2004]. Listing occupational carcinogens. Environ Health Perspect. 112(15):1447-1459.

 
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  • Page last reviewed: May 2, 2012
  • Page last updated: May 2, 2012
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