Despite efforts by lawmakers and manufacturers to protect workers and provide safe working environments, the risk of bladder cancer is still rising in certain industries, a new study finds.
Most cases of this common form of cancer develop following exposure to carcinogens that are inhaled, ingested or come into contact with the skin, the researchers explained.
Bladder cancer is also often tied to smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, said a team led by James Catto, of the University of Sheffield in England.
In the study, Catto’s group reviewed data from 263 studies involving 31 million people worldwide.
The new analysis revealed an increased risk of developing bladder cancer in 42 out of 61 occupational classes, and an increased risk of dying from bladder cancer in 16 out of 40 occupational classes.
Those at greatest risk from the malignancy were workers exposed to chemicals known as aromatic amines. Exposures often occurred when people worked with tobacco, dye, rubber, printers, leather and hair products, according to the study published online Oct. 8 in JAMA Oncology.
Also at high risk for bladder cancer and death from the disease were those exposed to heavy metals, diesel and combustion products. People working around toxins called polycystic aromatic hydrocarbons were at heightened risk, the study found. People exposed to these potential carcinogens include metal workers, electricians, mechanics, military service members, chimney sweeps, nurses, waiters, aluminum workers, seamen and oil/petroleum workers, Catto’s team reported.
Meanwhile, lower rates of bladder cancer were found in six out of 61 occupational classes and reduced risk of death from the disease was identified in just two of 40 classes. People working in agriculture were among those with the lowest risk, the researchers noted in a journal news release.
Gender also appeared to be key, with risks for the disease rising faster among women than men, the study showed. According to Catto’s group, this may simply be the result of improvements in screening and detection of the disease — more cases being detected. However, higher numbers in women might also be the result of rising numbers of women in the workforce, or a growing number of carcinogens in jobs predominantly held by women, the study authors said.
Efforts to reduce the risk of bladder cancer among workers should target jobs associated with the greatest risk of death from the disease, the researchers said.
Writing in a journal commentary, Dr. Elisabete Weiderpass, of the Institute of Population-Based Cancer Research in Oslo, Norway, and Dr. Harri Vainio, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, said the new report should sound alarm bells for cancer prevention.
“Bladder cancer continues to vary considerably by occupation, sex and calendar time — all indications that prevention is possible, and warranted,” the editorialists said. “Workers around the world have the right to demand and get a safe and carcinogen-free workplace.”
According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 74,000 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2015, and about 16,000 Americans will die from the disease.
The American Cancer Society has more about bladder cancer.
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