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    BURDEN OF WORK RELATED CANCER ESTIMATED

    Construction accounts for 56% of male ‘cancer registrations’

    An HSE commissioned report has estimated the burden of occupational cancer for Great Britain at 5.3% of all cancer deaths.

    Substances and occupations contributing over 100 registrations include: asbestos, shift work, mineral oils, solar radiation, silica, diesel engine exhaust, coal tars, pitches, painters and welders.

    Over 5% of cancer deaths attributable to work

    The primary measure of the burden of cancer used in this research was the attributable fraction (AF) i.e. the proportion of cases that would not have occurred in the absence of exposure; this was then used to estimate the attributable numbers.

    5.3% (8023) cancer deaths were attributable to occupation in 2005 (men: 8.2% (6366); women 2.3% (1657)). Occupational attributable fractions are over 2% for mesothelioma, sinonasal, lung, nasopharynx, breast, non-melanoma skin cancer, bladder, oesophagus, soft tissue sarcoma and stomach cancers.

    Industries/occupations with high cancer registrations include construction with 56% of cancer registrations in men are attributable to work in the construction industry (mainly mesotheliomas, lung, bladder and non-melanoma skin cancers).

    Estimates likely to be conservative

    This project is the first to quantify in detail the burden of cancer due to occupation specifically for GB.

    There are several sources of uncertainty in the estimates, including exclusion of other potential carcinogenic agents, inaccurate or approximate data and methodological issues.

    The report states that “on balance, the estimates are likely to be a conservative estimate of the total attributable burden.”

    Comment

    The report states that the construction industry accounts for “56% of the cancer registrations in men”.

    This startling statistic provides further evidence that construction health risks, and particlarly asbestos, need to be at the heart of the H&S agenda for construction.

    The priority given to occupational health has increased over the last 5 years and this trend must continue.

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