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Many work and non-work related factors can cause cancer. Furthermore, cancer cases often present themselves many years after the relevant exposure took place. Therefore, it is usually difficult to know whether workplace exposures have caused particular cases of cancer. However, it is possible to estimate in a large population the approximate number of cancer cases that could be due to work, in other words, would not have occurred in the absence of workplace exposure.

By looking at the number of workers who had been exposed to cancer causing agents in the past and the risk of cancer from these exposures, the research study on the burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain has estimated the proportion of all new cancer cases in the national statistics that could be due to past work exposures. Then, based on the estimated proportion, the study calculated the approximate number of occupational cancer registrations in 2004 and cancer deaths in 2005 in Great Britain.

The researchers have also developed methods to estimate the number of occupational cancer cases in the future for a range of intervention scenarios. This will enable us to compare the potential impacts of different interventions on occupational cancer reduction. Further information on occupational cancer burden research.


Key points

Figure 1: Estimated occupational cancer deaths by cause in Great Britain, 2005

Figure 1: Occupational cancer deaths by cause in Great Britain, 2005

These are based on many assumptions and subject to considerable uncertainty. Both known and probable occupational carcinogens have been included in the estimates.

Updated 2015-09-10