About 5,000 cases of cancer in Australia have been linked to the work place each year.
Research conducted by the Queensland Cancer Fund and the University of Sydney has shown that about 1,600 annual cases of lung cancer were attributed to exposure to asbestos, passive smoking, fumes and exhaust at work. Several cases of bladder and colon cancers were also found to have a work related origin.
AdvertisementProfessor Lin Fritschi, lead author of the report says about 11 per cent of cancers in men and 2 per cent in woman appear to have a work-related origin.
"Previous estimates have found about 4 per cent of cancers were caused by occupation but we used more up-to-date information and more complete information," she said.
Professor Fritschi said the main work related cancers were of the lung, prostrate, colo-rectal and melanomas.
"The construction industry is a problem. In the construction industry people can be exposed to a range of different things, like asbestos, silica dust, other types of fibres and mineral dust, and things like solvents," she said.
"The hospitality industry and outdoor work and sedentary work are the main ones for women because women tend not to be exposed in the heavy industries," she said.
According to Professor Fritschi both employers and employees must be made aware of health and safety issues as also "lifestyle" exposure including sedentary work, passive smoking and sun exposure.
"The problem is that if you have an injury at work, it's very clear that your injuries are associated with work," she said.
"If it's a cancer occurring from something at work, it may occur 20 years later and the link is harder to find.
"So people are less aware of the kind of things that cause cancer at work and there's much less interest in disease caused by work than there is in injury caused by work so we'd like to see that elevated a little bit more in people's importance."