Certain Occupations Associated With Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Certain occupations have a higher risk of breast cancer than others, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Health.

Jobs that bring workers into contact with possible carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, such as metal-working, food canning, and agriculture, are more likely to result in breast cancer.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that inhibit the hormone system, which can cause tumors, birth defects, and developmental disorders. Hormone disruptions can also cause body deformations, brain development and sexual development issues, and attention deficit disorder.

James T. Brophy and his research team conducted a population-based case-control study in Ontario, Canada, which measured 1,006 cases of breast cancer. 1,146 were randomly chosen and matched public controls. The authors used surveys and interviews to collect the data.

The occupations were coded based on their probability of exposing workers to endocrine disruptors and carcinogens, and the patients’ tumor pathology was examined.

Premenopausal breast cancer risk was at its highest in the food canning and automotive plastics industries.

The study also found that women with a lower socioeconomic status have an increased risk of breast cancer. This possibly stems from higher exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the lower income manufacturing and agricultural parts of the study area.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking, alcohol use, and weight, the occupations with the highest breast cancer risk were:

automotive plastics manufacturing
food canning

Women in these occupations had a 42 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer.

Brophy said:

“Our results highlight the importance of occupational studies in identifying and quantifying environmental risk factors and illustrates the value of taking detailed occupational histories of cancer patients. Mounting evidence suggests that we need to re-evaluate occupational exposure limits in regulatory protection.”

The study took place over six-years and was conducted by a team of instructors from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.