Examining workplace Risk for Breast Cancer: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Funded Researchers Share New Findings
WINDSOR, ON (November 19, 2012) – A multi-year research project funded by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) finds an average increase in breast cancer risk of 42 per cent for women who work for a ten year period in environments with high exposure to carcinogens and hormone disrupting chemicals.
CBCF-funded lead researchers Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith along with an international team of co-investigators gathered occupational histories from more than 2000 women in Essex and Kent counties in Southern Ontario, including both those diagnosed with breast cancer and women unaffected by the disease.
“Over the last 25 years mortality rates for breast cancer have declined by nearly 40 per cent but incidence rates have remained the same, with one in nine Canadian women getting breast cancer in her lifetime,” said Sandra Palmaro, CEO, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region. “This research provides new evidence about workplace risks associated with breast cancer that we hope will lead to a better understanding of how to prevent the disease.”
The findings also indicated further elevated risk in certain workplaces or industries. For example, women working in:
- Automotive plastics and food canning industries are approximately 500 per cent (five times) more at risk to develop breast cancer before reaching menopause
- Tooling, foundries and metal-related manufacturing are 73 percent (1.73 times) more at risk of developing breast cancer
- Bars and gambling facilities are 228 percent (2.28 times) more at risk of developing breast cancer
- Farming are 36 per cent (1.36 times) more at risk of developing breast cancer
“This study contributes to the growing evidence regarding the importance of preventing exposures to agents that increase breast cancer risk. It also points to the value of considering women’s occupational histories when we are searching for modifiable risk factors,” said Dr. James Brophy, co-principal investigator on the project.
“For too long researchers have ignored women’s workplace conditions in their quest to understand why some women develop breast cancer and others do not. These findings reveal that we need to revamp our occupational health regulatory system to take into account women’s breast cancer risk. Such preventive measures could have a significant impact on the breast cancer incidence in Canada,”said Dr. Margaret
Keith, co-principal investigator on the project.
This landmark research provides new evidence to help inform discussions with governments, industry, health care providers and stakeholders about the serious effects occupational risk factors can have on the development of breast cancer, which impacts women everyday in Ontario, across Canada and around the world.
“This research reminds us that we need to continue to demand a precautionary approach to dealing with toxic substances,” stated Dayna Nadine Scott, Director of the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health. “There is a growing understanding that when it comes to endocrine disrupting chemicals, even low doses can be dangerous.”
About the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
CBCF is the largest non-governmental funder of breast cancer research in Canada and one of the largest in the world. Its investments in research and fellowships are changing the landscape of what is known and understood about breast cancer and have supported more than $274 million in research projects and fellowships since 1986. This study was funded by Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region.