Significantly higher rates of lung cancer deaths - sometimes double what would be expected - occurred in US women who worked in more than 40 occupations between 1984 and 1998. The large scale occupational health surveillance study published in the February edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine is the broadest analysis of occupation, industry and lung cancer among US women to date. More than 40 industries were identified as having excessive lung cancer deaths, including manufacturing, transportation, retail trade, agriculture, forestry and fishing and nursing/personal care. Many jobs had one and a half to two times more lung cancer deaths than would be expected for the groups. The study could not specify causes for the higher risk but the authors suggest exposure to industrial chemicals, second-hand cigarette smoke and radon may play roles. Some estimates indicate that workplace exposures account for two to five per cent of lung cancer deaths in women, but the amount of research regarding workplace related cancer for women is much less than for men, where estimates are higher. Researchers at the US government's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analysed 4,570,711 death certificates from 1984 - 1998 to identify workplace settings with unusually high amounts of lung cancer deaths in women. They suggest that in blue collar workers, the excesses in lung cancer deaths might be a result of poorly controlled exposures to industrial chemicals with the potential to cause cancer. In other workplace environments, the authors suggest second hand smoke or even naturally emitted radon gas may be a factor. Female deaths from lung cancer in the UK are the highest in Europe. A fifth of these lung cancers occur in non-smokers.
Cynthia F Robinson and others. Occupational lung cancer in US women, 1984-1998, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, volume 54, issue 2, pages 102-117, February 2011 [abstract]. Environmental Health News. The Independent.
Briefing document (400 words) issued 11 Feb 2011
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