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Occupational exposures and cancer: a review of agents and relative risk estimates
  1. Claire Marant Micallef1,
  2. Kevin David Shield1,
  3. Isabelle Baldi2,
  4. Barbara Charbotel3,
  5. Béatrice Fervers4,
  6. Anabelle Gilg Soit Ilg5,
  7. Pascal Guénel6,
  8. Ann Olsson7,8,
  9. Lesley Rushton9,
  10. Sally J Hutchings9,
  11. Kurt Straif10,
  12. Isabelle Soerjomataram1
  1. 1Section of Cancer Surveillance, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
  2. 2Equipe Santé Environnement, Centre de recherche INSERM U 897, Bordeaux, France
  3. 3Univ Lyon, Univ Lyon 1, IFSTTAR, Service des maladies professionnelles, Hospices Civils de Lyon, UMRESTTE, UMR_T9405, Lyon, France
  4. 4Département Cancer Environnement, Centre Léon Bérard, Université de Lyon, Lyon, France
  5. 5Santé publique France, Direction Santé Travail, Saint-Maurice, France
  6. 6Centre de recherche en Epidémiologie et Santé des Populations (CESP), Cancer and Environment team, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, Villejuif, France
  7. 7Section of Environment and Radiation, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
  8. 8The Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinksa Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  9. 9Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Imperial College London, London, UK
  10. 10Section of Evidence Synthesis and Classification, International Agency for Research on Cancer IARC, Lyon, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Claire Marant Micallef, Section of Cancer Surveillance, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon 69372, France; marantmicallefc{at}


Objectives The contribution of occupational exposures to the cancer burden can be estimated using population-attributable fractions, which is of great importance for policy making. This paper reviews occupational carcinogens, and presents the most relevant risk relations to cancer in high-income countries using France as an example, to provide a framework for national estimation of cancer burden attributable to occupational exposure.

Methods Occupational exposures that should be included in cancer burden studies were evaluated using multiple criteria: classified as carcinogenic or probably carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs volumes 1–114, being a primary occupational exposure, historical and current presence of the exposure in France and the availability of exposure and risk relation data. Relative risk estimates were obtained from published systematic reviews and from the IARC Monographs.

Results Of the 118 group 1 and 75 group 2A carcinogens, 37 exposures and 73 exposure-cancer site pairs were relevant. Lung cancer was associated with the most occupational carcinogenic exposures (namely, 18), followed by bladder cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Ionising radiation was associated with the highest number of cancer sites (namely, 20), followed by asbestos and working in the rubber manufacturing industry. Asbestos, bis(chloromethyl)ether, nickel and wood dust had the strongest effect on cancer, with relative risks above 5.

Conclusions A large number of occupational exposures continues to impact the burden of cancer in high-income countries such as France. Information on types of exposures, affected jobs, industries and cancer sites affected is key for prioritising policy and prevention initiatives.

  • Carcinogens
  • Neoplasms
  • Occupational Exposure Review
  • Risk
  • Comparative Risk Assessment

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  • Contributors Conceptualisation: CMM, KDS and IS; methodology: CMM, KDS, IB, BC, BF, AGSG, PG, AO, LR, SH, KS and IS; formal analysis: CMM and KS; resources: IS; writing – original draft: CMM, KS, IB, BC, BF, AGSG, PG, AO, LR, SH, KS and IS; writing – review and editing: CMM, KS, IB, BC, BF, AGSG, PG, AO, LR, SH, KS IS; supervision: IS; project administration: CMM, IS.

  • Funding This project is funded by the French National Cancer Institute (Institut National du Cancer) for the project entitled ’Définition des priorités pour la prévention du cancer en France métropolitaine: la fraction de cancers attribuables aux modes de vie et aux facteurs environnementaux' (grant number: 2015-002).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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