Occupational Cancer: The Elephant in the Room

Occupational Cancer: The Elephant in the Room

  • Date: Friday 12th August 2016

What do we know about work related cancers:

  • The leading cause of death is occupational exposure to asbestos
  • Most new cases are lung, breast or skin cancer
  • An estimated 5000 cases each year are from the construction industry
  • Other causes are from shift work, diesel fumes, solar radiation, mineral oils and silica
  • Three times more men than women die from occupational cancers
  • Most common forms are lung cancer and mesothelioma


The HSE estimates that there are 8,000 deaths and over 13,000 new cancer registrations every year. The following table gives the estimated deaths by cause in 2005.


Of all the industry sectors construction accounts for 40% of cancer registrations and deaths. The majority of these are attributable to past exposure to silica dust and asbestos fibres. HSE estimates an annual 3,500 registrations in construction with and additional 1,300 registrations attributable to solar radiation, coal tars and pitch; mostly causing non melanoma skin cancer.


HSE research indicates that the number of occupational cancers associated with asbestos exposure will drop by 90% and those associated with silica by 50% by 2060. However diesel exhaust fumes, solar radiation, shift work, aromatic hydrocarbons and working as painters / welders are estimated to become the main causes of occupational cancer in the future.


For more information on occupation cancer follow these links:

Cancer Figures - https://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/health-and-safety/chemicals-and-dust/occupational-cancers-figures

HSE Guidance - http://www.hse.gov.uk/cancer/index.htm

IOSH No Time to Lose - http://www.notimetolose.org.uk/


If you have any questions regarding the control of exposure to carcinogens contact SSG on 01752 201616 or email info@ssg.co.uk


Bookmark and Share

Return to listings