Workers in a significant number of industries and workplaces may be exposed to chemical and physical compounds at higher concentrations and for longer periods than people in the general population. It was estimated that in Australia in 2012, 3.6 million current workers, or 40% of the working population, were potentially exposed to carcinogens in the course of their work.
Reducing the burden of occupational cancer requires the implementation of policy based on evidence from two areas of research – epidemiological studies that identify occupational carcinogens and occupational hygiene studies that identify effective interventions to eliminate or reduce the exposure of workers to them.
Due to the time lag typically seen between exposure and cancer incidence, epidemiological studies generally have a historical context. That is, they provide evidence of the consequences of exposure to carcinogens at least five years, and possibly up to decades, previously. This body of evidence is described in the links section of this chapter.
Occupational hygiene research concerns current circumstances of exposure to identified occupational carcinogens. Eliminating or reducing exposure to known carcinogens in occupational settings can be achieved through a range of interventions, described in the effective interventions section of this chapter.
This chapter of the National Cancer Prevention Policy also covers the impact of occupational cancers in Australia, describes the relevant policy context and outlines Cancer Council Australia's policy priorities to reduce the burden of occupational cancer.
- Carey RN, Driscoll TR, Peters S, Glass DC, Reid A, Benke G, et al. Estimated prevalence of exposure to occupational carcinogens in Australia (2011-2012). Occup Environ Med 2014 Jan;71(1):55-62 Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24158310.