THE ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has decided to investigate the frequency of breast cancer among women in all of its studio complexes across Australia.
The move followed the release today of a final report by an independent panel of experts into the high rate of breast cancer cases at its studios in the western Brisbane suburb of Toowong.
"If there is a currently unknown or undetected aspect of work or the working environment at the ABC Toowong that could have contributed to the observed increase in risk of breast cancer, it might also be present in similar ABC studio complexes elsewhere in Australia," the report said.
"We recommend, therefore, the conduct of similar investigations into the frequency of breast cancer among women who have worked on those sites at some time since 1994, as we have done at Toowong."
All the ABC's Brisbane staff were relocated from the Toowong site just before Christmas after a study found female employees reported breast cancer at a rate of up to 11 times higher than the general working community.
ABC managing director Mark Scott said the Cancer Council would do the new study.
The independent panel's report released today found there was a "real increase in the risk of breast cancer in women working at the ABC Toowong site that was related to length of employment and may have been contributed to by some aspect of work or the working environment at Toowong".
But the expert panel found that the increase in risk was unlikely to have been caused by exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields, ionising radiation or chemicals.
"There was also little or no evidence to suggest that the increase in risk could be explained by an underlying high risk of breast cancer in women employed at Toowong due to their sharing of known genetic or lifestyle risk factors for breast cancer," the panel found.
"While we have not been able to find a cause for the increase in risk of breast cancer at the ABC Toowong, we believe that we have considered and excluded all plausible environmental explanations for such an increase," the report said.
But the panel recommended conducting similar investigations into the frequency of breast cancer among women who have worked on other ABC sites at some time since 1994.
Mr Scott said the assessment made by the expert panel after a 12-month study had been accepted by the ABC and further justified the decision to relocate all staff away from the Toowong site.
"We have also accepted the recommendation put forward by Professor Armstrong and the expert panel to conduct a study of breast cancer epidemiology of staff in other capital cities," he said.
"This study will be conducted by The Cancer Council in New South Wales and we expect to see a proposal for the undertaking of this work shortly."