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Identifying occupational risk factors for cancer in women: a need for further action
  1. Melissa C Friesen,
  2. Laura E Beane Freeman
  1. Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melissa C Friesen, Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20850, USA; friesenmc{at}

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The limited representation of women in occupational cancer research studies has been recognised for decades.1 Unfortunately, this remains true today for many cancer sites and workplace exposures despite the fact that in 2021 women made up 40% of the global workforce, with percentages in some countries much higher.2 The proportion of women varies by industry sector. For example, in the USA in 2020 women represented 75% of the healthcare sector and 30% of the manufacturing sector.3 As a result, women may differ from men in both the prevalence and magnitude of workplace exposures. For example, a 2011–2012 survey of working Australians found women five times less likely to be exposed to carcinogens as men.4 Similarly, in a pooled international case-control study of lung cancer, prevalence of silica exposure was only 8% for women, compared with 29% for men.5 In the Asbest Chrysotile Cohort Study, women had a lower prevalence of asbestos exposure than men, but when exposed their cumulative exposure was higher due to their more frequent employment in high-exposure factories rather in the mines and longer employment duration.6

In this issue of the journal, Leung et al 7 report on results from a population-based case-control study of ovarian cancer in Canada. For ovarian cancer, only asbestos is an established occupational carcinogen, with little learnt about other occupational risk factors in the past …

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  • Contributors MCF and LEBF contributed equally to this commentary.

  • Funding The authors are funded by the Intramural Research Program of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the US National Cancer Institute (Z01 CP010122).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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