HSL places cookies on your computer to improve our website. These cookies don't collect information that identifies a visitor and are all anonymous. They are used to measure its performance and to provide enhancements to you while using the site.
Enabling a Better Working World

Enabling a better Working World

Mobile Nav Mobile Basket

You are not logged in

The Burden of Occupational Cancer in Britain

On 20th June 2012, the British Journal of Cancer published a supplement of 13 papers* that summarise the results of a seven-year programme of collaborative work to estimate the number of cancer cases and deaths caused by exposure to carcinogens or carcinogenic process in the workplace.  Accompanying this BJC supplement, there are 25 technical reports summarising in detail the estimates for twenty-three different cancer sites in the body**. 

Dr Lesley Rushton OBE from Imperial College has technically led this work with input from other national and international experts including HSL staff who have made a significant contribution. During the early stages of the work Dr Gareth Evans, who leads HSL's Immunology and Toxicology Team, managed the cancer burden programme of work, while Charlotte Young and Terry Brown from HSL's Epidemiology Team prepared the summaries of evidence for fifteen of the twenty-three separate cancer site reports and ten of the papers in the BJC supplement. Dr Rushton and Dr Evans are also co-editors of the supplement.

The overall aim of this project was to produce an updated estimate of the current burden of occupational cancer specifically for Great Britain. The primary measure of the burden of cancer used in this project was the attributable fraction (the proportion of cases that would not have occurred in the absence of exposure), which was then used to estimate the attributable numbers. For 2005, 5.3% (8,023) of cancer deaths were attributable to occupation (men: 8.2% (6,366); women 2.3% (1,657)). Attributable estimates for total cancer registrations are 13,694 (4.0%); and for men: 10,074 (5.7%) and women 3,620 (2.1%). 56% of cancer registrations in men are attributable to work in the construction industry (mainly mesotheliomas, lung, bladder and non-melanoma skin cancers) and 54% of cancer registrations in women are attributable to shift work (breast cancer). This project is the first to quantify in detail the burden of cancer due to occupation specifically for GB.

Dr Evans commented: "This has been a real marathon of a project requiring a huge effort on the part of the multi-institute team to sift through the evidence and prepare this numbers of reports and papers. The HSL team can be proud of the contribution they have made to work that is of national and international significance".

*The abstracts for each paper are available as free downloads from the BJC website at

** The reports will be made available as free downloads from the HSE website at

Back to the top