Workers Health & Safety Centre

OCRC receives million dollar grant to study burden of occupational cancer

OCRC receives million dollar grant to study burden of occupational cancer

The Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) will receive a one million dollar grant to examine the human and economic impact of workplace exposure to carcinogens.

Funded by the Canadian Cancer Society this groundbreaking study—the first of its kind in Canada—will estimate the number of new cancer cases and cancer deaths that can be attributed to workplace factors. Researchers will also estimate the cost to the country of work-related cancers from direct costs like medical care, to indirect costs like lost work time. These estimates will be projected into the future to examine the potential benefits of prevention activities such as toxic use reduction. The results of the study will be broken down by province, industry, sector and gender.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), nearly 160 workplace factors are known or likely to cause cancer in humans. Dr. Paul Demers, director of the OCRC, will lead the cross-Canada team of scientists, epidemiologists and health economists who will evaluate 44 of these known or suspected carcinogens and study their links to 27 different types of cancer. The list of identified carcinogens includes:

  • Industrial chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and 1,3-Butadiene (widely used in the production of synthetic rubber);
  • Metals such as chromium, nickel and arsenic;
  • Other types of factors, such as sunlight, asbestos, paint, diesel fumes and shift work.

“This is a unique opportunity for a multi-disciplinary team of experts to work together on cancer prevention,” says Demers. “At the end of the study we will have solid data which will ultimately help guide industry leaders and policy makers to decide where to change, strengthen or enforce regulations on workplace exposures in order to help prevent workplace-related cancers.”

This nation-wide study is also expected to help guide workplace prevention practices and programs. In addition, Demers hopes to raise awareness among physicians about the occupational causes of cancer, which could lead to earlier diagnoses of the disease.

The study, which will take four years to complete, will use historical data collected as part of the CAREX Canada project and the Canadian Workplace Exposure Database funded by the Canadian Partnership against Cancer.

Want more information on the new cancer study?

Want WHSC training on potential work-related carcinogens such as asbestos and electromagnetic fields?

Want WHSC information on other work-related carcinogens such as diesel exhaust and shift work?

Want more information on IARC’s classifications of carcinogenic agents?