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Women's Safety and Health Issues at Work

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Health Concerns: Cancer

Workplace exposures to hazardous substances may play a role in the development of some types of cancer. NIOSH is studying several hazardous substances to determine whether there is a link to cancers that affect women.

Related Resources

Cancer and noncancer mortality among American seafood workers
The study examined the deaths of 4,116 seafood workers, most of whom worked in seafood processing plants. More than half (53%) of those who died were women. The study group had more deaths from stomach cancer and disorders of the thyroid gland compared to the general US population, but fewer deaths from breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease due to reduced blood supply.

Cause-specific mortality among a cohort of U.S. flight attendants
The study found no evidence of increased breast cancer or melanoma among female flight attendants.

Earlier age at menopause, work, and tobacco smoke exposure
Among more than 5,000 US women older than 25 with complete data, earlier age at menopause was found among all smokers and among service and manufacturing industry sector workers. (Earlier age at the start of menopause has been associated with increased all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality risks.) Women (particularly black women) age 25 to 50 had an increased risk of earlier age at menopause with both primary smoking and second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure.

Gliomas and farm pesticide exposure in women: The Upper Midwest Health Study
This study examined exposures to pesticides among women in rural areas of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. This is the first case-control study of glioma among rural residents that looked at the effect of pesticide exposure and work practices in women. Gliomas are a type of cancer in the brain or spine. No evidence for association of pesticide use and glioma risk was found.

Hemoglobin adducts and sister chromatid exchanges in hospital workers exposed to ethylene oxide: effects of glutathione S-transferase T1 and M1 genotype
This study examined the effects of Ethylene oxide (EtO) (a cancer-causing agent) on chromosome (DNA) damage in workers who operate an EtO sterilizer in hospitals. EtO is commonly used to make other products and for sterilization. The study found some individuals who have had a gene deleted (GSTT1 gene) may be more susceptible to DNA damage from EtO.

Mortality among a cohort of garment workers exposed to formaldehyde: an update
This study looked at workers from three garment plants who worked with formaldehyde. The study found there may be a link between formaldehyde exposure and death from certain types of cancer.

Mortality in dry-cleaning workers: an update
This study looked at a population of dry-cleaning workers who were exposed to perchloroethylene (PCE) to see if there was a higher rate of death caused by cancer. Researchers found a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and dying of myeloid leukemia.

Mortality of workers employed in shoe manufacturing: an update study
This is an update to a previous study that looked at the possible link between cancer deaths and exposure to toluene in workers from two shoe manufacturing facilities. Results indicated a possible link between lung cancer death and repeated exposure to low levels of organic solvents.

Occupational exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and risk of breast cancer
The study involving women working in capacitor manufacturing facilities found no overall elevation in breast cancer risk following occupational exposure to PCBs. However, higher risk was observed among non-white workers.

Occupational lung cancer in US women, 1984-1998
The study of mortality data for more than 4 million women who died between 1984 and 1988 found that, with adjustments made for smoking, significant excess proportionate lung cancer death was found among US women working in the US manufacturing, transportation, retail trade, nursing/personal care, and agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.

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