Is there a link between the risk of breast cancer and the working environment? A study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health provides further evidence on this previously neglected research topic, confirming that certain occupations do pose a higher risk of breast cancer than others, particularly those that expose the worker to potential carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.
Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer diagnosis among women in industrialized countries, and North American rates are among the highest in the world. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens, some of which may not have yet been classified as such, are present in many working environments and could increase breast cancer risk. In their study, James T Brophy and his colleagues set out to characterize the possible links between breast cancer and occupation, particularly in farming and manufacturing.
The population-based case-control study was conducted in Southern Ontario, Canada, and included 1006 breast cancer cases (referred by the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre) with 1147 randomly selected and matched community controls. Using interviews and surveys, the team collected data on participants' occupational and reproductive histories. All jobs were coded for their likelihood of exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and patients' tumor pathology regarding endocrine receptor status was assessed.