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Book Review. Genes, cancer and ethics in the work environment.

Schulte PA
Am J Ind Med 1999 Jun; 35(6):662-663
This book is a unique historical record and reflection on the scientific agenda of Irving Selikoff in the last phase of his life. It contains a selection of 17 papers from two conferences he planned, neither of which he would attend: "The Workplace and the Human Genome" (May 20-21, 1992) and "The Molecular Origins of Cancer" (April 9-14, 1995). Dr. Selikoff died May 20, 1992, just as the first conference was getting underway. This book contains glimpses of the vision that he had for the future to utilize the abundance of discoveries about how cancer develops at the molecular and genetic level for prevention and control of cancer in the workplace. The book could be subtitled, in the words of Selikoff, "Molecular Biology of the Latent Period." He realized that the incubation or latent period of occupational cancers has been largely a "black box," that if opened could lead to interventions for high-risk groups, groups heretofore defined only by exposure, morbidity, and mortality variables. New molecular biological insights might lead to appropriate approaches to interrupt the seemingly inexorable process between exposure and cancer. This book tracks some of the hopes, opportunities, and issues that accompany the use of new technologies in the service of workers. It is one of the few books where the issues of genetics, cancer, and work are brought together. The book begins with a dedication to Selikoff's legacy, Research and Protection for Workers, by Sigurd Lucassen of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, and a description of the Selikoff Fund for Occupational and Environmental Cancer Research. This dedication reviews some of the efforts by Selikoff and others to forge a partnership between science and labor. Next, the broad historical dimensions of the Selikoff agenda were aptly measured by Sheldon Samuels, who also participated in forming and implementing that agenda. He traces Selikoff's efforts from the early 1970s to the present volume to develop protective interventions among workers at high risk of occupational disease. The "high-risk management" concept involves extending to workers the basic public health practice of notification, cessation or reduction of exposure, early detection and routine medical surveillance, and intervention. At the same time, Samuels identifies the issues surrounding multistage disease, multifactor causality, and the role of genetic as well as environmental factors in occupational cancer. Finally, he traces Selikoff's understanding of the paramount importance of the ethical, legal, and social aspects of scientific knowledge and technologies that promise intervention breakthroughs. This is also illustrated in the first five chapters that comprise Section One, "The Workplace and the Human Genome: Ethical, Legal and Social Constraints."
Occupational-diseases; Occupational-exposure; Occupational-hazards; Occupational-health; Cancer; Cancer-rates; Molecular-biology; Genetic-factors; Genetics; Genetic-disorders; Risk-analysis; Risk-factors; Carcinogens; Protective-measures; Protective-materials; Personal-protection
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Journal Article
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American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division