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Can your job make you more likely to get breast cancer?

When people think of job-related illnesses, breast cancer usually isn't the first one that comes to mind. However, a report that represents findings from a quarter-century of scientific studies found links between chemicals and toxic substances to which some women are exposed in the workplace and this potentially-fatal form of cancer.

The report notes that women have "historically been excluded" from workplace safety studies, "which means that health issues that predominantly affect women, including breast cancer, have been at best understudied and at worst ignored."

The report says that research on the issue is still "inadequate." However, it notes "there is enough to raise alarm about women's work, occupational exposures and breast cancer." Among the toxic materials linked to breast cancer are pesticides, solvents and tobacco smoke. The report blames a lack of exposure limits or inadequate limits regarding these substances by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The report contends that regulators like OSHA, legislators and researchers need to do more to mandate policies and enact laws "to protect worker health." It was not reported whether those employed in specific jobs or industries were more likely to be exposed to materials that could cause breast cancer. Another study in Canada, however, found that women who worked in the automotive plastics industry in Canada were five times more likely to develop breast cancer than other women.

It may be difficult to prove that any particular illness was caused by exposure to particular substances in the workplace. However, if enough people come forward, links between these substances and illnesses can be investigated and changes can be made to improve workplace safety in Georgia and throughout the country.

Source: The Center for Public Integrity, "Report: cause for 'alarm' on possible work-related causes of breast cancer," Jim Morris, accessed Oct. 14, 2015

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