Occupational cancers are those that occur due to exposure to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agents in the workplace. Such exposures include:
- a wide range of different industrial chemicals, dusts, metals and combustion products (e.g. asbestos or diesel engine exhaust)
- forms of radiation (e.g. ultraviolet or ionising radiation)
- entire professions and industries (e.g. working as a painter, or in aluminium production)
- patterns of behaviour (e.g. shift working).
Occupational exposures to carcinogens are estimated to cause over 5000 new cases of cancer in Australia each year.
Common workplace carcinogens
As of June 2016, IARC had identified 198 known and probable cancer causing agents and circumstances; exposure to a number of these agents primarily occurs within the workplace. Some of the most common carcinogens found in Australian workplaces include:
- solar ultraviolet radiation
- diesel engine exhaust
- environmental tobacco smoke
- benzene - benzene is found in crude oil and is a major part of petrol. Used to produce plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides
- silica - blasting, cutting, chipping, drilling and grinding materials that contain silica can result in silica dust that is not safe to breathe in
- wood dust
- artificial ultraviolet radiation
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – organic chemicals released from burning organic substances such as coal, oil and petrol
- chromium VI - occurs during activities such as welding on stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal.
To learn more about some workplace carcinogens or to share your workplace cancer story click here.