Online Program

Breast cancer and work: Why research and preventive action are needed

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 3:10 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

James Brophy, PhD, University of Windsor (Canada), 2 University of Windsor, Ontario, Ontario, ON, Canada
Breast cancer remains the most frequent cancer diagnosis among women in the United States and Canada, which have among the highest rates in the world. Despite the limitations of the currently accepted risk factors to adequately explain the breast cancer epidemic there is little global attention being paid to the occupational risk factors of women employed in an array of industries where the potential of high exposure to possible mammary carcinogens and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC) exist. This failure to examine the occupational influences that could realistically impact the health of millions of working women is rooted in the deeply entrenched social class and gender biases of the prevailing cancer agencies and governmental regulatory bodies. Regulatory action has been further attenuated in recent decades by the neoliberal policies of global capitalism that have continued to weaken the power of worker advocacy organizations to prevent harm and secure protection. Thus the populations at risk are kept uninformed and excluded from the decision-making process.

Results from two recently published Canadian studies on breast cancer and occupation predict that women employed for ten years in occupations assessed as potentially having high levels of exposures to breast carcinogens and EDCs would have a 42% elevated breast cancer risk after controlling for many known or suspected risk factors. Farming, automotive plastics, food canning, metalworking, and bars and casinos all showed a significant elevated risk. A particularly high risk was observed for premenopausal women employed in the automotive plastics industry and food canning.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe recently published studies on breast cancer and occupation with special emphasis on the exposures of women working in the automotive plastics industry. Discuss the current barriers to addressing the breast cancer epidemic in occupational settings. Discuss possible opportunities and strategies that might contribute to reducing the breast cancer risk of women due to occupational and environmental exposures.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the co-principal investigator along with Dr. Margaret Keith of the breast cancer case control study and a concurrent qualitative study that examined the link between occupational exposures and breast cancer risk. The other research team members are as follows: Andrew Watterson, Robert Park, Michael Gilbertson, Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, Matthias Beck, Hakam Abu-Zahra, Kenneth Schneider, Abraham Reinhartz, Robert DeMatteo and Isaac Luginaah
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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