The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has marked World Cancer Day by calling for far greater acknowledgement of the role of work-related factors in causing cancers, and warned that that neglecting to understand and control occupational exposures to carcinogens, by means of highly effective occupational hygiene solutions, threatens a bright future where cancer is largely eliminated in years to come.
On 4 February 2015, the Chartered Society for worker health protection reiterated the 2015 World Cancer Day campaign slogan, “Not beyond us,” agreeing that eliminating cancer is indeed not impossible and that cancer is a largely preventable disease.
The 2015 global campaign is articulated around four key areas of focus, namely:
•Choosing healthy lives
•Delivering early detection
•Achieving treatment for all
•Maximising quality of life.
The Society welcomed the positive and proactive approach to the global fight against cancer on World Cancer Day 2015, and the excellent level of awareness-raising which is being achieved in highlighting the role of healthy lifestyle choices, such as keeping fit, giving up smoking, eating well and drinking in moderation, in beating cancer.
However, BOHS is concerned that, all too often, the work-related causes of cancer fail to be properly acknowledged and are overlooked in the media and other sources of information about cancer.
This, the Society says, reinforces a lack of awareness around occupational exposures to carcinogens. In turn, it means that the simple and cost effective occupational hygiene solutions which can eliminate these risks are under-employed within organisations, with grave consequences for public health.
Commenting on the issue, Mike Slater, of Diamond Environmental and the President of BOHS, said, “On World Cancer Day 2015, we welcome the message that solutions do indeed exist across the continuum of cancer, and that they are within our reach. However, it is vital that governments, employers and the public understand that occupational exposure is a major cause of cancer, which should be much more publicly highlighted, along with smoking, and diet and alcohol consumption. As an illustration, people at the highest risk of lung cancer caused by diesel exhaust emissions are miners and professional drivers. To be blunt, this high risk will not be favourably altered by miners and divers just giving up smoking or keeping fit. However, occupational hygienists can suggest straight forward solutions which will control the risks. This message needs to be more widely shared.”
The chartered society for worker health protection also notes that the scientific evidence increasingly supports the view that cancer can and will be eliminated, given the correct conditions. A recent study by scientists at University College London and King’s College London predicted that by 2050, cancer deaths will be eliminated in people under 80, provided that further major developments in prevention and treatment are achieved.
Mike Slater said, “There needs to be greater acknowledgement by all stakeholders that the necessary conditions in prevention and treatment of cancer must include the tackling of occupational exposures to carcinogens. There is no doubt that that the future for cancer prevention could be bright – this is not wishful thinking – there is scientific evidence to prove this. However, the positive predictions about cancer must be considered in the full context of all the scientific research which is currently available. The leading medical statistician, Dr Lesley Rushton, has warned that in the absence of action, in Great Britain, annual deaths from preventable occupational cancers in 2060 will have risen by 5,000 more than the current level of 8,000.”
• we neglect work-related exposures to carcinogens at our peril
• cancer will never be eradicated unless there is better awareness of occupational exposures
• the occupational hygiene solutions to prevent these types of cancer are already available – we are not
waiting for a cure to be discovered
• most of these solutions are simple and cost-effective to implement.