Cancer as an occupational hazard
13 June 2006
A study published in this month's Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, shows that the rate of occupational cancer in Australia is much higher than the 2 per cent generally accepted in the past.
Dr Tim Driscoll, senior lecturer at the University's School of Public Health and Dr Lin Fritschi from Queensland Cancer found that one in 10 male workers and one in fifty female workers developed cancer every year due to workplace exposure to carcinogens.
Lung cancer was one of the cancers most often caused by occupation, affecting heavy industry workers exposed to airborne chemical particles and hospitality workers exposed to passive cigarette smoke.
The researchers highlight a lack of investigation in the area of occupational health as a serious failure on the part of research bodies and the government.
"People are not particularly interested in occupation as the cause of cancer. It's not in the national cancer prevention plan, and there doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement out there that cancer and work are related," Dr Driscoll said.
"There are thousands of chemicals being used in industry today, and most of them have not been evaluated properly. In addition, most people exposed to carcinogens in the workplace don't develop cancer until much later in life.
"I admit that occupational cancer is a difficult area to research. Cancer is much more difficult to study and attribute than injuries, but it deserves our full attention," he said.
Drs Driscoll and Fritschi hope that their research will elevate the issue of occupational cancers in the minds of regulators, the government and the general public.
"We would like more research, interest and support for this area of cancer studies. We want new regulations to help Australians who are routinely exposed to carcinogens in their workplace," they said.
Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy
Phone: Ph: +61 2 9351 4312 or M: 0421 617 861