Women’s Jobs Causing Cancer?
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. A new study found a link between breast cancer and occupation.
The study found a statistically significant association between the increased risk of breast cancer among women who work in jobs where they are exposed to a "toxic soup" of chemicals. Researchers were from Canada, USA and UK, including four from the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group (OEHRG) at the University of Stirling in Scotland.
The case control study, involving 1005 women with breast cancer and 1147 without the disease, revealed that women who worked in jobs classified as highly exposed for 10 years increased their breast cancer risk by 42.
Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, lead researchers for the study, both work in the OEHRG at Stirling as well as the University of Windsor in Ontario.
"Breast cancer incidence rose throughout the developed world in the second half of the twentieth century as women entered industrial workplaces and many new and untested chemicals were being introduced. Diverse and concentrated exposures to carcinogens and hormone disrupting chemicals in some workplaces can put workers at an increased risk for developing cancer," Dr. Keith was quoted saying.
The study found several occupational sectors in which there was elevated breast cancer risk:
Farming showed a 36% increased breast cancer risk. Several pesticides act as mammary carcinogens and many are endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Food Canning: The risk of developing breast cancer doubles for women working in the tinned food sector; and among those who were premenopausal, the risk was five times as great. Exposures to chemicals in the food canning industry may include pesticide residues and emissions from the polymer linings of tins.
Metalworking: A statistically significant 73% increased breast cancer risk was found in the metalworking sector. Women working in tooling, foundries and metal parts manufacturing are exposed to a variety of potentially hazardous metals and chemicals.
Bar/Casino/Race Courses: The risk of developing breast cancer doubles for women working in the bar/casino/racing sector. The elevated risk of developing breast cancer may be linked to second-hand smoke exposure and night work which has been found to disrupt the endocrine system.
Plastics: The risk of developing breast cancer doubles for women working in the Canadian car industry's plastics manufacturing sector; and among those who were premenopausal, the risk was almost five times as great. Many plastics have been found to release estrogenic and carcinogenic chemicals and cumulative exposures to mixtures of these chemicals are a significant concern.
An allied research group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan has sampled nearly 1,000 cars since 1996 and has identified a range of other health hazards due to toxic chemical exposure in vehicles. Many of these hazards, including plasticizers, UV-protectors, pigments, dyes, flame retardants, un-reacted resin components and decomposition products, may be released through plastic products life cycle. Phthalates and PBDEs are examples.
"Consumers are exposed daily to the same toxic soup of chemicals that workers are, and we are greatly concerned that government standards are not enough to protect us from carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastics and vehicles," Jeff Gearhart, lead researcher was quoted saying.
Dr. Brophy called for further research to be funded as a matter of urgency.
"The study of occupational risks for breast cancer is a neglected area of research. Resources should be aggressively allocated to preventing occupational exposures to cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer,” Brophy added.
"The study also points to the need to re-evaluate occupational and environmental exposure standards, keeping in mind that there may be no determinable safe levels to cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting chemicals," Dr. Keith concluded.
Source: Environmental Health, December 2012