Work-related cancers often overlooked

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has called for far greater acknowledgement of the role of work-related factors in causing cancers. The BOHS warned that neglecting to understand and control occupational exposures to carcinogens, by means of highly effective occupational hygiene solutions, threatens a bright future where cancer is largely eliminated in years to come. The call came in response to World Cancer Day 2015, which is taking a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, with the slogan ‘Not beyond us’. The Society welcomed this approach to the global fight against cancer, and the excellent level of awareness-raising which is being achieved in highlighting the role of healthy lifestyle choices, such as keeping fit, giving up smoking, eating well and drinking in moderation, in beating cancer. However, BOHS is concerned that, all too often, the work-related causes of cancer fail to be properly acknowledged and are overlooked in the media and other sources of information about cancer. This, the Society says, reinforces a lack of awareness around occupational exposures to carcinogens. In turn, it means that the simple and cost effective occupational hygiene solutions which can eliminate these risks are under-employed within organisations, with grave consequences for public health. Commenting on the issue, Mike Slater, the president of BOHS, said, “On World Cancer Day 2015, we welcome the message that solutions do indeed exist across the continuum of cancer. “However, it is vital that governments, employers and the public understand that occupational exposure is a major cause of cancer, which should be much more publicly highlighted, along with smoking, and diet and alcohol consumption. As an illustration, people at the highest risk of lung cancer caused by diesel exhaust emissions are miners and professional drivers. To be blunt, this high risk will not be favourably altered just by miners and drivers eating healthily or keeping fit. However, occupational hygienists can suggest straightforward solutions, which will control the work-related risks. This message needs to be more widely shared.” The Society has warned that by 2060, in the absence of action, 13,000 people a year (in contrast to the current estimated level of 8,000) will be dying in Great Britain from preventable occupational cancers. These figures are based on research by the leading medical statistician, Dr Lesley Rushton. Mike Slater continued, “Cancer will never be eliminated unless there is also better awareness of occupational exposures and so we neglect work-related exposures to carcinogens at our peril. “Rather than simply waiting for cures to be discovered, we should be aware that, right now, we already have the occupational hygiene technology and skills to prevent many types of cancer from developing in the first place. This is not wishful thinking – these occupational hygiene solutions are currently available and within our grasp.”

Safety & Health Practitioner, 4 February 2015 ;http://www.shponline.co.uk ;