Greater risk of breast cancer from certain occupations, time to put breast cancer put of work.

A new report from Breast Cancer Fund called Working Women and Breast Cancer: State of the Evidence, uncovers elevated breast cancer risk for working women. The report discovered over 20 occupations which carry a higher risk of breast cancer compared to the risk for the general population. They are:

  • Nurses – Up to 50% higher risk than for the general population
  • Teachers – Up to double the risk
  • Librarians, lawyers, journalists and other professionals – Up to 4 times higher risk
  • First responders (police, firefighters, military personnel) – Up to 2.5 times higher risk
  • Food and beverage production workers – Up to 5 times higher risk
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists – Up to 5 times higher risk
  • Manufacturing and machinery workers – Up to 3 times higher risk
  • Doctors, physicians and other medical workers excluding nurses – Up to 3.5 times greater risk

Currently occupation is not considered a risk factor by most of the breast cancer charities. Shift work having only recently made it onto their radar. What are the implications for the non-consideration given to occupation by the cancer establishment? The continual focus on lifestyle risk factors will do nothing to stem the flow of breast cancer cases if occupational and environmental infleuncers are not taken into consideration. Have you ever been asked about your occupation when you visit your doctor? There is much we can do by way of prevention in the workplace using current legislation, much can be done by trade unions and activists to draw attention to this. The breast cancer establishment needs to recognise and address occupational breast cancer as a priority. Current cancer strategies need to focus on primary prevention of occupational and environmental risk factors. Not to do so would be to condemn thousands of women to a needless breast cancer diagnosis and death from breast cancer. We need greater emphasis on primary prevention, alongside better treatment and care if we are ever to see the end of the breast cancer epidemic.

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