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Work-Related Cancer

6th November 2014

Cancer caused by what people do at work is nothing new. One of the first official cases of an occupational cancer was identified in the eighteenth century.

a conservative estimateAsbestos is the best known carcinogen – and the biggest killer. Today, asbestos claims well over 100,000 lives a year worldwide. It’s estimated that 10 million people across the world will have died as a result of asbestos exposure before it’s been fully controlled. But there are many other carcinogenic exposures that cause cancer and claim lives – well over 50 substances are listed as known or probable causes of workplace cancer. Across the world, the number of people dying from a work-caused cancer far outstrips those dying because of work accidents. It’s estimated that at least 666,000 people die worldwide every year*.

Recent research has built the most comprehensive picture to date for a single country. A research team at Imperial College, London, linked thousands of cancer deaths with different occupations. It found:

  • almost 14,000 new cases of cancer caused by work are registered each year
  • around 8,000 deaths a year are caused by occupational cancer

We posted recently on the steps that Scaffolders should be taking when creating silica dust when drilling scaffold anchors – but this is just one potential cause with as many as 1 in 5 workers in the European Union thought to be at risk.

In light of this, the Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) has launched a campaign called #notimetolose. The campaign aims to get carcinogenic exposure issues more widely understood and help businesses take action. The campaign is working to:

  • raise awareness of a significant health issue facing workers in the UK and internationally
  • suggest some solutions on a UK scale to tackle the problem – a national model that can be transposed internationally
  • offer free practical, original materials to businesses to help them deliver effective prevention programmes.

Visit the dedicated website at or click the image below for a fantastic resource on what needs to be done to to combat this horrible disease.

what can kill


*Estimate of 666,000 global work-related cancer deaths annually: ‘Roles of occupational safety and health organisations in global and regional prevention strategies’, Takala et al., International Commission on Occupational Health, 2009.