A new study published November 19, 2012 in the Environmental Health Journal shows that a number of blue-collar jobs with exposure to chemicals may be increasing some women’s risk for breast cancer.
The case control study selected 1,005 women with breast cancer and another 1,147 without the disease. Researchers found that women who worked in jobs classified as “highly exposed” for a decade or more increased their breast cancer risk by 42 per cent.
"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,” said study lead Dr. Margaret Keith in a November 19, 2012 statement to media.
“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 added.
The study’s researchers hail from Canada, U.S. and the UK, including four from the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group (OEHRG) at the University of Stirling in Scotland.
The study is titled “Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: a Canadian case--control study”.
The study’s authors include: James T Brophy, Margaret M Keith, Andrew Watterson, Robert Park, Michael Gilbertson,Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, Matthias Beck, Hakam Abu-Zahra, Kenneth Schneider, Abraham Reinhartz, Robert DeMatteo and Isaac Luginaah.
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,” he said. “Resources should be aggressively allocated to preventing occupational exposures to cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer.”
Farming: This industry showed a 36 per cent increased risk of breast cancer. 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 73 per cent increased risk of breast cancer 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.