World Cancer Day: New report highlights ways to improve the prevention of work-related cancer

On World Cancer Day the world unites in the fight against cancer. A report on work-related cancer by the EU-OSHA aims to tackle these issues by evaluating current assessment methods.

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The focus of this year’s World Cancer Day is on detection, treatment and care. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work - EU-OSHA’s report gives recommendations for filling gaps in our present knowledge, a crucial task if we are to improve identification and prevention of occupational cancer. It concentrates on the assessment of carcinogens and work-related cancer with the following objectives:
- to describe carcinogens and cancer-causing conditions in the workplace
- to evaluate sources of information and identify knowledge gaps
- to give recommendations for filling these gaps
- to describe prevention measures

EU-OSHA’s director, Dr Christa Sedlatschek, notes the significance of this publication: ‘This report provides practical recommendations on further broadening our knowledge on occupational cancer. Although cancer research has progressed significantly in the recent past, awareness of occupational cancer risks is still low. Therefore, it is crucial that awareness and knowledge of these risks is improved, and this report takes the first step towards this.’

The report looks at chemical, biological, organisational and physical factors that contribute to occupational cancer. It also stresses the need to consider the current work environment, characterised by increased subcontracting, temporary work, multiple jobs, static work, female employment in exposed occupations, atypical working times and multiple exposures.

The issue of groups which are particularly vulnerable to cancer (e.g. young people, women, those experiencing high exposures or precarious conditions) is also addressed.

A key finding of the report is the need to broaden our knowledge base on occupational cancer. It identifies several key ways to do this, including information exchange at the international level and considering new and emerging risks, such as nanomaterials, endocrine-disrupting compounds, static work, and shift and night work.

An overview of possible solutions is given, but the report stresses that the most effective measure is avoidance of exposure. To achieve this, efforts are required at all levels, including in legislation, awareness- raising, specifications of preventive measures, improved implementation and enforcement, and lowering barriers to compensation.