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REPORT ON THE BURDEN OCCUPATIONAL CANCER IN GB

Construction sector involves potential exposure to 20 different carcinogens

HSE has published an overview of the results of a project concerning the current ‘burden of cancer’ due to occupational carcinogens in Great Britain. The project aims were to provide:

  • an estimate of the current burden of occupational cancer specifically for Great Britain
  • an estimate of the future occupational cancer burden; and 
  • headline estimates into exposure-cancer combinations.
Headline results of the project

The overall burden in GB attributable to occupational carcinogens was 5.3%. Numbers of attributable deaths are 8010 overall (6355 for men, 1655 for women) and numbers of attributable cancer registrations are 13598 overall (9988 for men, 3611 for women).

The most important cancer sites for occupational attribution being: 

  • Men – mesothelioma (97%), sinonasal (43.3%), lung (21.1%), nasopharynx (10.8%), bladder (7.1%) and NMSC (6.9%); and 
  • Women mesothelioma (82.5%) sinonasal (19.8%), lung (5.3%), breast (4.6%) and nasopharynx (2.4%).

Occupation also contributes 2% or more overall to cancers of the larynx, oesophagus and soft tissue sarcoma (STS), with in addition for men melanoma of the eye (due to welding), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), and stomach.

Lung cancer contributes the largest number of attributable deaths for both men and women although many carcinogenic exposures in the workplace affect multiple cancer sites. Asbestos contributes the most to both total attributable deaths and registrations (larynx, lung, mesothelioma, stomach).

Pattern within construction sector

Industry sectors contributing substantially to the total burden include construction, land transport, manufacture of transport equipment, metal workers, mining, painters and decorators in the construction industry, personal and household services, printing and publishing, public administration and defence, roofers and road repairs, shift work, and wholesale and retail trades.

The majority of industry sectors involve exposure to several carcinogens (many over 10) with construction and many of the manufacturing sectors involving potential exposure to between 15 and 20 carcinogens. 

The report notes the contribution of exposure to asbestos, diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEE), silica and solar radiation in the construction industry.

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