Your job might get you sick. Canadian researchers found that certain jobs raise breast cancer risks, saying occupational risk factors are often neglected in the prevention of the disease.
The new research on breast cancer aims to draw attention to the occupational risk factors in the development of the disease. Researchers say that their findings should prompt a re-evaluation of these factors by regulators. For instance, women with jobs in the automotive plastics and food canning industries are subjected to a higher risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer than women in other industries.
The Canadian study involved 1,006 women with breast cancer and another 1,147 healthy women of the same age. Experts interviewed both groups looking for occupational risk factors. Some women in the breast cancer group talked about procedures that were considered a red flag by researchers. For instance, the injection moulding process in the automotive plastics industry exposes women at compounds that were flagged as carcinogenic.
Study co-author Jim Brophy says that the new research “contributes to one of the neglected areas: occupational risk factor for breast cancers”. “The identification of several important associations in this mixed industrial and agricultural population highlights the importance of occupational studies in identifying and quantifying environmental risk factors” the Canadian research reads.
Based on the study, women working in the food canning production are twice as likely to suffer from breast cancer because of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and pesticides vapors. Women working in casinos and bars face the same risk of breast cancer boosted by second-hand smoke and night work. Metalworking industry workers face the same high breast cancer risk from exposure to toxic chemicals, fumes and solvents.
Jim Brophy warns that until now “most public-health initiatives have overlooked the seemingly invisible cohort of farm and blue-collar women workers”. The study co-author adds that these are the kind of “findings from this study have important implications for women… and point to the need to rethink our regulatory protections and compensation systems”.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine has looked at breast cancer causes last year and listed ionizing radiation, increased postmenopausal weight and the combination estrogen-progestin hormone therapy as breast cancer risk factors. However, it concluded that “for many other factors, the evidence from human studies is more limited, contradictory or absent”.